Park Named After Hill District Playwright

By Sydney Barlow | Urban Agenda

Vintage photographs by Tennie Harris – a breathtaking view and renovated playground – are among the highlights of the newly renovated August Wilson Park.

The park, formerly known as Cliffside Park, is renamed after Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson, a native of Pittsburgh’s Hill District. The park is at 1801 Cliff St., and a grand opening ceremony is scheduled for this weekend.

Quotes from Wilson’s plays will appear along the playground walls, along with many other renovations of the park.august wilson park 1

“New entrance, a new pathway that is completely accessible, new trees and native plants, basketball court, opportunity to see water run through the park, and an overlook,” says Terri Baltimore, vice president of neighborhood development at the Hill House Association.

Despite the renovations, the project was delayed for two main factors.

First, the project organizers dealt with an extensive water pipe leak while they were raising funds for the park, said Cheryl Hall-Russell, president and CEO of the Hill House Association.

Before the park’s opening, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority had to repair a leaking pipe under the playground that allowed water to drain over a cliff onto Bigelow Boulevard.

The second factor was fund-raising efforts. Eventually, the park received $1.3 million in donations from local foundations and state and private sources, said Baltimore.

“Fifty-thousand dollars of that money was specifically given to future maintenance of the park,” says Scott Roller, communications and creative senior manager of Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.

Two main organizations that raised the money were the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and the Hill House Association.

“The Hill House has been with the project since the beginning,” Baltimore says. The community agency held many meetings about the park.

“We played a big role in bringing community groups together,” said Hall-Russell.

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy was also an important contributor to the renovation of the park.
“We were the project lead in the re-imagining of the park in partnership with the city of Pittsburgh that involved raising funds and being the group that leads the design and construction,” says Roller of the conservancy.

With help from his agency and the Hill House Association, the park is expected to thrive.

“It will benefit the community in two ways: It is a brand new play place with beautiful amenities and it’s a beautiful place where Pittsburghers can come and discover what they do not know about the Hill,” says Baltimore.

The park will also create a safe environment for children and families and is handicapped-accessible.
“It’s a nice safe and fun spot,” said Hall-Russell.

“Everyone wanted that space to be fully accessible, which is aligned with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy views,” said Roller.

Neighborhood residents are also excited.

“ I am excited because it’s a park that is in our neighborhood for youth to go and socialize, it’s a safe environment for children to play and the park will have a family atmosphere,” said Vonda Little. “August Wilson has done so much for being African-American, so its important to remember people who meant so much to the Hill. It is important that we keep August Wilson’s name around for youth and the older population.”

Marsha Kenny, another Hill District resident, says, “ I am excited because its something new and nice for the kids, it’s somewhere for them to go.”

After many years of hard work and dedication, the park has become very meaningful to residents and project partners.

“To me, the park is an example of the beautiful spaces that are in the Hill,” says Baltimore. “Places like Cliffside Park will help people think of the Hill in a new light.”

Adds Roller: “Just seeing a community love their park space is so inspiring.”

After working on this project with the Hill community, the conservancy plans to help renovate many other smaller parks in other neighborhoods. “Arsenal Park, McNeilly Park, and Allegheny Commons Park are among those in the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy’s projects in the coming years,” says Roller.

The conservancy and Hill District organizers are inviting Hill District and other Pittsburgh residents for the grand opening’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“The Hill deserves to be celebrated by not just people in the Hill, but everyone,” said Baltimore.

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