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N. Oakland Proposed Trails: Linking People, Nature, Neighborhoods

Neville-Trail-elevated-trail-renderingThroughout Pittsburgh are wild landscapes that could be terrific places for people to get out in nature. These are the hillsides that we often ignore as we pass by, or that we grumble about because they act as barriers between two nearby places.

What if we consider these wild urban landscapes as amenities instead of annoyances? What if we think about them as convenient places to walk the dog, watch birds or just be outside amidst nature?

Neville-Trail-trailhead-Centre&NevilleThis idea became the final project of Pashek Associates staff member Elaine Kramer in her master of landscape Neville-Trail-trailhead-Centre&Nevillearchitecture program at Chatham University. The  project proposes turning the wild urban hillsides of the North Oakland neighborhood into community assets. This builds on a long-term goal in the Oakland Planning and Development Corp.’s 2025 vision plan. Here are two parts of the plan:

  • The hillside between North Oakland and the Hill District could include a rugged trail that enables walkers to reach the fabulous views at Robert Williams Park, the highest spot in Pittsburgh.
  • The hillside between North Oakland and Lawrenceville could accommodate a multi-use trail leading from Centre Neville-Trail-Melwood-Ave-TrailheadAvenue and Neville Street to Herron Avenue Bridge, creating an important link between neighborhoods and existing trails. Part of this trail would be a tree-top elevated boardwalk.

Here are two links for additional information about the North Oakland wild urban trails proposal:

Post-Gazette news story

Oakland Planning and Development Corp newsletter

B2CI Trail Plan leads to $611,000 NYS DOT Grant

DSC_0844Governor Cuomo’s recent announcement $67 million in funding for bicycle, pedestrian and multi-use path enhancement projects, includes $611,000 to implement the first phase of the Barcelona Harbor to Chautauqua Institution Trail.  This 1.5 mile section of trail will extend from Lakeside Park to East Chautauqua Street in Mayville.

During the Chautauqua County Greenway Planning process, completed by Pashek Associates in April 2012, stakeholders envisioned the proposed trail.  As a result, the County funded a trail feasibility study to determine if the proposal was viable.  In that recently completed study, the Lakewood Park to Mayville portion of trail was identified by Pashek Associates as a demonstration project because of its high visibility.

John Buerkle said “We hope the implementation of a high quality trail experience through this portion of the proposed trail corridor will build support for extending it further, to Barcelona Harbor to the north, and Chautauqua Institution to the south.  Once completed, the trail will have a positive impact to the businesses in Mayville, Westfield and Barcelona that provide the goods and services that visitors to the trail will seek.  The first section of trail is typically the most difficult to get on the ground.  Typically once local residents experience what a trail has to offer, momentum builds for extending it.”B2CI Executive Summary Map V6

The Chautauqua County Department of Planning & Economic Development, Pashek Associates and the County Department of Public Facilities worked collaboratively in preparing the application, with the County of Public Facilities leading the way.

Chautauqua County Greenway Plan Receives Upstate New York Planning Excellence Award

The New York Upstate Chapter of the American Planning Association (NYUAPA) is pleased to announce that the Chautauqua County Greenway Plan has been awarded the 2013 Planning Excellence Award for Comprehensive Planning.  The 2013 NYUAPA Chapter Awards recognize outstanding work being done by planners, planning firms, elected officials, and citizens to advance the science and art of urban and regional planning in upstate New York. The award was presented at the NYUAPA’s annual conference in Schenectady. Chautauqua County received this same award for its Comprehensive Plan: Chautauqua 20/20 in 2011.

The Planning Excellence Award in Comprehensive Planning recognizes plans that advance the science and art of planning. Winning projects are distinguished for originality and innovation, quality, thoroughness, degree of public participation, and identified steps to put the plan into action.

Chautuaqua Greenways Award_crop

Summary of the Chautauqua County Greenway Plan and why it is Special

Chautauqua County’s rich system of four season greenways positively impacts the economies of our communities. The recommendations proposed in the Greenway Plan, which was a top recommendation in Chautauqua 20/20, creates a new enthusiasm for active living and healthy lifestyles; promotes outdoor activities; improves our quality of life within Chautauqua County; acts as a catalyst for economic development related to outdoor living; and establishes Chautauqua County as a destination center for outdoor adventure and lifelong learning opportunities.

This plan defines steps for the community to take to:

  • Formalize and maintain the rural outdoor lifestyle;
  • Fulfill the desire to be a four season destination for active outdoor living; and,
  • Capitalize on the positive economic impact that can be realized through providing goods and services that visitors to Chautauqua County desire.

One of the many objectives of the Chautauqua County Greenway Plan was to develop a unique, concise, easy-to-read, high quality plan developed within the constraints of a limited budget. The Project Team, comprised of the Chautauqua County Department of Planning & Economic Development, Pashek Associates, and other key stakeholders, strove to not overburden the document with superfluous information and facts. The crux of the plan is 162 pages in length, and the team produced an attractive Executive Summary that is only 12 pages in length. The supporting documentation is available on a CD and on the department website so that the plan can be reproduced at a reasonable cost. The plan integrates a unique style, is enhanced with colorful pictures taken locally, and incorporates modest graphics to convey its message.

Besides identifying and proposing the development of recreational greenways using existing Rights-of Way and natural corridors, the Plan also identifies towns based on their potential to provide amenities to trail users. These “Trail Towns” are ranked based on their ability to provide the goods and services needed by Trail Users. The project team felt it was essential to identify ten (10) demonstration projects that are to be the first projects pursued in the coming years (several are currently being implemented). Enough description about each project is provided so that it can be discussed and considered for implementation.

The Chautauqua County Greenway Plan also utilizes a unique methodology for defining its natural systems greenways by using natural, ecological and hydrologic infrastructure as building blocks for determining high-value natural areas, and allows these special areas to be ranked.  This information will help guide decision-makers towards or away from potential projects based on the sensitivity of natural areas where they are being proposed.


Site Accessibility: Trying to Follow Conflicting Regulations

Some of the most interesting work we do in site development is making sure that the entire site is accessible to those that have physical or mental challenges. With the Baby boomers entering their 60’s, this rapidly growing

Testing the firm, stable, and slip resistance of a paving surface
Testing the firm, stable, and slip resistance of a paving surface

population needs to have full access to our sites.

We have run up against conflicting rules and regulations and navigating those sometime conflicting requirements is difficult.  Add in a challenging topography in this part of the country and we find ourselves trying to accommodate everyone without compromising the overall project goals.

On a recent project in central Pennsylvania, we found it almost impossible to meet the Township’s requirements for pedestrian access from the public right of way, regardless of the grade and the International Building Code requiring an accessible route from the “public way.”  Further, the interrelationship between the IBC, 2010 Standards for Accessible Design, and proposed Outdoor Developed Area Guidelines can be very difficult to interpret.  In this instance, the Federal guidelines for ADA were very reasonable and provided for instances when an accessible route up a very steep grade is simply not feasible without negatively altering the natural area of the site.

As new rules and regulations become law, we must be vigilant to incorporate those requirements in our design of sites.  This week, many of us at Pashek Associates attended a webinar on accessibility and plan to continue this dialogue.  We look forward to applying what we have learned on the next site development project.

Making Connections… The Forks of the Ohio Regional Trails Symposium

This past Friday John Buerkle and Mike Kotyk attended this symposium which focused on advancing trail planning and development efforts in the Power of 32 region (, which includes PA, OH, WV, and Maryland.  The Symposium gave John and Mike an opportunity to rekindle relationships with former clients and friends, as well as participate in “Setting the Regional Trail Agenda”.

The Symposium brought together the “who’s who of trail development” within the four-state area.  It was a great opportunity for veterans to discuss how to expand the trails into a regional network and to tackle those difficult challenges.  It also was an excellent opportunity for new trail advocates to garner knowledge and support from those who “have been there and done that”.


Mike enjoyed the opportunity to network as well as gain new knowledge related to asset based community development and economic impacts from trail development, as well as learning more about the development of the regional trail planning tool.

During the symposium, it became evident that the geographic area of the Power of 32 should include more counties as there are other opportunities to expand the regional trail network.  Presenters frequently referenced the Power of 32, 48, 64, or Power of 32×2.

John and Mike were happy to share their thoughts on bringing Chautauqua County, NY into the fold.  They are working on a trail feasibility study to connect Chautauqua Institution to Barcelona Harbor on Lake Erie.  The trail will eventually connect to the northern segment of the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail ( This effort is being undertaken through the Westfield Development Corporation ( and the Chautauqua County Department of Planning and Economic Development ( with the assistance of Pashek Associates.

Our current and past clients, as well as friends in trail community, present at the symposium included:

Off-road and on to Adventure

Northumberland County is on its way to fulfilling the vision of creating a world class off highway vehicle and recreation area.  Off-roading enthusiasts will have a new destination in Pennsylvania when the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) opens in Northumberland County in late fall 2013. The recreation area will welcome all types of off-highway vehicles (OHVs) to trails that provide a range of experiences for riders of different skill levels. The site also will accommodate non-motorized recreation such as horseback riding, bicycling, hiking and rock climbing.

Photo by Jacy Marquette Photography
Photo by Jacy Marquette Photography

AOAA lands, which are owned by the county, run about 13 miles east-to-west and amount to about 6,500 acres. Much of the land encompasses old coal mines, some of which are being reclaimed, and the kinds of landforms that attract people with all-terrain vehicles, off-road vehicles, utility ATVs and off-highway motorcycles. Eventually, the site will include campgrounds, a vehicle washing station, picnic areas and other amenities that will make the adventure area a travel destination for off-roaders from Pennsylvania and beyond.

Pashek Associates created the master plan for the recreation area, working in conjunction with Northumberland County officials, citizens and Pennoni Associates. Northumberland County adopted the plan in 2012, in in January 2013 the Commissioners created a municipal authority to manage and operate the new recreation facility.

The AOAA so far has received these major grants to get the project under way:

  • $1.9 million from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Community Conservation Partnership Program to plan and begin developing the project.
  • $300,000 from the federal Appalachian Regional Commission to construct an access road.
  • $30,000 from vehicle manufacturers for maps and signage and for trail development.
  • $1.2 million from the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation to remediate hazards.
The land development planning process is nearly complete, says Patrick Mack, Northumberland County’s planning director and vice chairman of the AOAA authority. Next up is to begin construction of the trailhead area, which will include a maintenance and security building with both a small retail counter and restrooms, parking, and a picnic area.
Several sponsored events have been scheduled at the AOAA for 2013, including:
  • Valley Forge Trail Riders Hare Scramble, May 11-12, 2013
  • 2nd Annual Coal Mountain Jeep Jamboree, Aug. 1-3, 2013
As the AOAA comes on-line, it is expected to generate demand for the private sector to provide lodging, camping, dining and other support service businesses in the area.
We congratulate Northumberland County on taking the next steps to turn the AOAA vision into a reality!

Trail Planning in at Slippery Rock University

Slippery Rock University graduate students conducted a highly successful public meeting on campus trails October 16 with the help of Jim Pashek, President of Pashek Associates. Over 80 people attended the workshop that SRU-300x199included presentations of existing conditions, facilitation of small group discussions at 16 tables and, after everyone had an opportunity to express their top issues, voting was conducted to prioritize those issues.

Jim coached the Sustainable Landscapes class on ways of making public meetings more engaging and emphasized strategies that encourage the building of trust between meeting facilitators and attendees.  After the meeting, the class acknowledged their enthusiasm about their roles in the public meeting and were amazed at how participants became excited to share their concerns and expectations.

The public meeting was part of a larger trail planning process that John Buerkle, principal at Pashek Associates, was assisting the graduate students with.  He has worked with the students on how soils, topography, and vegetation impact both the design and ability to maintain trails. They also looked at logical connections through the campus.

The public meeting was held in the new Robert M. Smith Student Center, a beautiful space for the meeting.  Kudos to our friends at DRS for their work on that building.