Hill District park renamed for August Wilson ready to open
It took two years longer than expected and more than one plan rewrite, but the Hill District’s August Wilson Park is set to reopen on Saturday.
Tyian Battle, 38, of Sheraden said it can’t come soon enough.
Battle grew up across the street from the park at Cliff and Cassatt streets. She played there as a child and helped pull weeds and pick up litter along with her neighbors and family members after the city essentially abandoned it in the 1990s because of budget crunches.
“Every time we come here, my kids are like, ‘When is the park going to be done?’” said Battle, who was visiting her parents Friday. “I just can’t wait to get it back to the way it used to look. It’s really going to be nice.”
Perched on a cliff offering spectacular views of the Strip District and North Side, the park originally known as Cliffside Park was renamed this year in honor of renowned Pittsburgh playwright August Wilson, who grew up about a block away on Bedford Avenue.
The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy began planning for the rehabilitation along with community groups in 2010 and raised $1.3 million — including a state grant, Community Development Block Grant money and donations from foundations and individuals.
Susan Rademacher, the conservancy’s parks curator, said plans went through numerous redesigns with input from neighbors before Downtown landscape architect Environmental Planning and Design came up with a layout that fit.
Complicating the process was an old sewer line that ran through the property and had to be repaired.
Then, in the middle of construction about two years ago, a Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority pipe burst on the cliff below the park and threatened Bigelow Boulevard. That required a major repair and construction of a retaining wall.
“A tremendous amount of effort and good faith went into this project,” Rademacher said.
The park, which is fenced off and closed to the public until Saturday, features a gentle serpentine paved path that winds to the bottom, providing wheelchair access to a basketball court and playground equipment.
A windscreen on the court features vintage photographs by late Pittsburgh photographer Teenie Harris and others. Quotes from Wilson plays decorate a retaining wall.
Benches are situated throughout amid trees and plantings native to Pennsylvania.
A narrow channel for stormwater lined with grasses and plants permits visitors to see water running after a rain.
Leeretta Payne, who has lived next to the park for more than 30 years, said it was always a neighborhood gathering place.
“I equate this with the city’s larger parks,” she said. “It’s not as big, but it’s just as useful. It will be a place for children and adults to play and sit and smell the trees, look at the grass and listen to the birds.”
The conservancy and Hill community groups will dedicate the park from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday. The event is free and open to the public, but the conservancy asks those who plan to attend to register online at showclix.com/event/august-wilson-park-reopening/tag/widget.
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312 or [email protected]