With a final $200,000 contribution, Friends of the Riverfront has completed the purchase of the Aspinwall Marina, and will begin the planning stages for a new park. The marina's owner, David Kushon, is retiring and put the property up for sale three years ago. Friends' executive director, Thomas Baxter, said the community was incredible in raising $2.3 million in six months to purchase the marina.
"They are tremendously excited. They have really taken the lead on helping with the fundraising. Everyone from little kids raising money at lemonade stands, up to major donors in the area, really seeing the potential that this parcel has and the rare opportunity to make something great," Baxter said.
The fundraising intensified when the community learned that UPMC St. Margaret was interested in buying the eight-acre property and turning it into a parking lot.
The last $200,000 was a gift from Highmark. It will allow Friends of the Riverfront to begin planning stages for what will likely include retaining the marina and adding an extension of the Three Rivers Heritage trail.
"The next stage is reaching out to the community, discussing what the property's potentials are, and then garnering their input on ideas and thoughts on how best to proceed on what they would like to see for a community park," Baxter said.
Baxter hopes it will be a park for the whole region, and he said the planning stage could use a lot of public input, because there are a variety of paths to take.
"There are so many great ideas coming to the table," Baxter said, "What we really have to do is look at what other facilities are nearby, with this eight acres of property, what the potential of it is, and really find a consensus on what can happen there."
Baxter said the park enhancements must be paid for, along with setting aside money for future maintenance.
"We're working on looking at several million dollars to do the build out, and then possibly a couple hundred thousand to a million dollars, at least a million dollars, in a separate line item for long-term stewardship and maintenance," Baxter said.