Sandcastle GAP obstructionism
Whatever happened to emminent domain? Why can’t the county/state/city/fed say “Here, you get this money and this is ours now” like they have so many times before (the Mae West bend in 28 that eliminated the carousel horse shop in Etna). Or is it the money that’s the issue?
Scott — oops, sorry, I mean “Mr. Bricker”— can you write her back and take her up on the offer of updating the bicycling community on the progress? Whether that would be a meeting in person or phone call, or whatever. Actually, would it be possible to set up a conference call where interested people can dial in? I’m thinking of the kind of calls that companies have when releasing quarterly results or whatever. Anyway it would be interesting to learn the identity of this other party besides Sandcastle, because that does seem like new info.
Maybe I’m just the cynic here but it seems to me while Darla J. Cravotta was rather well spoken, it seems she said nothing and said it very well.
I’ve worked with Darla, she knows a lot about these trail projects and has been a committed supporter. I don’t have a problem with her recapping how much has been accomplished to date, a lot of which has just come together in the last 2 years. As for Sandcastle there just isn’t anything to announce to the public right now. If they are still negotiating it won’t help and could hurt the process to tell the public what’s been proposed or what the snags are.
What could hurt in an election year is a public outcry that someone in the County has broken promises about the completion of the project…the squeaky wheel gets greased…especially in the weeks before November 2nd
Greasefoot, I wasn’t suggesting you not put pressure on whoever you want about getting this portion complete, that’s fine. What I’m saying is that releasing progress statements to the public like “Sandcastle keeps standing us up for meetings” isn’t valuable info and could hurt the relations between the negotiating parties.
I don’t think any sort of noise is useful at this point, particularly as affects politicians. What we want done is going to be done by staffers, not politicians. I’m with Tabby, raising issues may do more harm than good, especially as Election Day approaches.
I agree with Tabby. Darla has worked tirelessly on trail projects for decades. What Darla was trying to convey in her email to me was that the nature of connecting Pittsburgh to McKeesport involves dozens of easement negotiations as opposed to just one rail-to-trail conversion. It’s very difficult.
I would only disagree that informing the public more often could possibly hurt the process. Specifics don’t need to be delved into, but simply a heads up that “negotiations are ongoing and to please remain patient, these things take time” would be great to hear from time to time.
Sandcastle is such a focus for trail users and the bicycling community as a whole, because everyone knows that the old owners were opposed to negotiating an easement, and that there is more than a glimmer of hope with the new owners. But this issue does go beyond Sandcastle to the railroad and neighboring property owners. Even after everything is worked out, things will take another couple of years to build.
I think the key thing for us all to understand right now is that these negotiations take a long time, that there are teams of people working on this, that it is a priority, and we need to exercise some patience. It’s tough because we all want to ride straight from the City to Ohiopyle or DC and it seems we’re ever so close. But it took 20 years to get to this point because of how many different property owners there are along this alignment with various degrees of enthusiasm for this project.
I think the best thing to come of this is a once every month or two update to the wider community on how things are coming along. It most likely won’t be a call-in like someone suggested, but will be an update from the ATA, the County, Friend of the Riverfront or Bike Pittsburgh on the state of the trail.
i think people would be much less upset if they just left the stupid gate open. there is no other safe way to get to the waterfront, forget about washington dc, people use that trail all the time because its the safest way for people without cars to get where they are going.
i think darla’s work is great and so was the email, I don’t expect the whole trail out of pgh to mckeesport to be done till 2015, also there is a washed out part of the C&O that isn’t supposed to be done until 2012.
i often wonder what would happen if people started to slowly put crushed limestone on that stretch by the rails, and then sandcastle left the gate open… that’s all that needs to happen.
As I saw (see) it, the County is in a better position to obtain right of way, than a small non-profit, with no money/leverage. As such, the various groups who are able to obtain monies for trail infrastructure will continue to build out the system, as it is quicker – typically design/build – and cheaper – private money, private bids, much volunteerism.
The few times the County did provide plans, specifications and construction estimates for a typical design, bid, build project the costs were obscene – mostly because the bike/ped trail was an 11th hour addendum, but also because the County must develop full plans and specifications with all the local, state and federal provisions associated with any typical County public works project.
You want to plan a corridor, talk to the County; you want paved trails, switchback ramps, fly-overs, tunnels or a sweet porta-john like the one in Deal, then you need to lobby ATA, Friends of the Riverfront, Steel Valley Trail Council or the Regional Trail Corporation. Why these folks don’t make their information more easily available to the public is a travesty. Then again, in the land of a thousand governments it’s reasonable to expect that one fiefdom know nothing of the other.
@mark et al: There’s really no good incentive for Sandcastle to leave the gate open, it’s just an invitation to vandals. There seem to be a couple of ways of getting around the property (along the tracks, up the stairs) which while not biker-friendly are still an option for the determined.
I think that the remaining land-owner is probably the junk-yard (?) next to the river. The RR right-of-way is too narrow for a safe bike trail.
I’ve noticed that over the summer the track along the railway [from trail to street] has mostly been worn through to dirt, enough to make the ride reasonable. Then again, there’s a big pile of crushed limestone in the yard next to the trail… all you’d need is a wheelbarrow and a free weekend. [this is not a suggestion.]
I love how many junk yards are right beside rivers – Verona, Lawrenceville, waterfront. I love how there’s a jail right beside the river. And the mon wharf parking lot.
I recognize that these rivers were highways in their hey day, and riverfront property in this industrial city was basically considered on/off ramps… But we’re not a steel town anymore. Why do we treat our riverfront property like it’s 1890?
Ejwme – The rivers are still highways, barges go up and down the rivers constantly. you dont load a few thousand tons at a time onto barges without being riverside.
believe it or not you WANT that traffic on the river since the option to that is throw all that barge traffic on the roads with trucks, or as freight on rails (you will never get another rail to trail then)
and as to why do WE treat our property that way, WE don’t. The legal owners of the Property do.
I personally don’t believe that Eminent Domain is now or has ever been a good idea. Remember that, depending on who is in power that same domain that could give you the trail can be used to take it away just to increase the tax base.
Always look to see how something can be turned around before give anyone in government the chance to use it.
So, assuming we leave Sadcastle alone, just how would one get from one side of the place to the other, assuming one hadn’t a clue what roads, trails, goat paths, staircases, etc. actually exist?
I live north. I’ve been out thataway on a bike maybe once, ever. I have no intention of irritating either Sadcastle or the West Homestead P.D. I just want to ride my bike, and don’t care to get killed on 837.
The RR is involved because when Sandcastle built their access road, they accidentally located it partly on RR property. This came to light during negotiations for the trail.
So even if Sandcastle’s willing to give up part of their road, the trail builders also have to get permission from the RR. (And I’m guessing that even if the RR is willing to let the trail use its land, they might not be so accommodating to a private company like Sandcastle. So working out a deal between Sandcastle and the RR over the land one owns and the other’s built a road on is possibly also part of this messy negotiation.)
The trail folks already have an agreement with Keystone, the property owners west of Sandcastle, to let the trail through as soon as they have an agreement with Sandcastle too.
Sandcastle might be reluctant to leave the gate open because of the issue Swalfoort explained recently in this thread about the RR access road between Millvale and Etna: let the public go through your property at will, and you can lose the right to keep them out in the future. (Presumably Sandcastle would prefer to negotiate a specific agreement than to risk losing rights inadvertently.)
“So, assuming we leave Sadcastle alone, just how would one get from one side of the place to the other”
If you start on the South Side Trail (technically the Baldwin Borough Trail, I think), there’s no way to continue to Homestead without trespassing on somebody’s property. Initially, you’d have to trespass on RR property for about 800 feet to get to Haysglen Street (beneath the Glenwood Bridge). Having done that, you have several options:
1. Continue on the gravel next to the RR until you reach Costco and a public street (about 4000 more feet).
2. Continue for 1200 feet as above. Once you pass under a RR trestle, the fence ends, so you can use Sandcastle’s access road instead of the gravel. This option is more pleasant, but you do wind up trespassing on both RR and Sandcastle property, instead of just the former.
3. Head south on Haysglen Street for about 500 feet. It passes beneath 837. You’ll see stairs off to your left. Take them up to the sidewalk next to 837, and ride it into Homestead. This options features just a wee bit of trespassing, but you have to contend with stairs and a mile of sidewalk that’s not in great shape.
So if you want to get to Homestead legally, there’s no way to get there using the Baldwin Borough Trail. (Of course, from up north you could always go some other way, say Beechwood to Browns Hill Road and the Homestead Grays Bridge.)
If Sandcastle is so concerned about vandalism, why does the waterfront side of the park have no fence whatsoever?
It does, same fence. I was just out there a few days ago.
If the use of land with no protest creates and easement, wouldn’t Sandcastle then have one for their road, since it has been there for quite some time?
I don’t understand the whole easement process very well, so I am only asking for clarification. If that is NOT the case, then on the flip side, there is no risk at railroads allowing cyclists by in other locations, right?
On the fence: Both ends have a gate. Last time I was there (not too recently), there was also a fence between the access road at the RR tracks, but only at the western end of their property. The eastern end had no such fence, and looked about like it does in Google Street View. Did they really add a fence all along the road? Seems curious in light of the negotiations.
Re easements: They have signs that prohibit through traffic, and fare booths when they’re open that could presumably turn people away. I’m just guessing about the exact rules, but it seems like they’re safe from creating an easement if they have rules like that. (In other words, they are protesting general public use, by their signs at least, and perhaps by having guards tell people caught trespassing when the park’s closed to leave.)
You can leave the southside trail and cross over the track to Carson/837 either at beck’s run or at the nd of the trail. Crossing the tracks is illegal, though.
If I understand correctly, there is no legal access to or from the trail once it goes east of the last business on the South Side.
Aside from the legalities, once a person get off the trail the only legal way east is to use 837, which is not much fun.
Not that I would ever cross railroad tracks illegally and do such a thing you understand, but that’s what I’ve heard.
A little off topic…if someone finds themselves trespassing on RR property and a person identifies themselves as RR police be very polite. Tell them you are lost and you did not know you were on privet property. CSX has a privet police department similar to Pinkerton. Most of the time they drive an SUV or a truck that can ride on the rails. They hold commissions that permit them to enforce state laws, carry weapons, and can arrest you.
In most states (not sure about PA), there is also a separate statute for railroad trespass that is more strict than normal criminal trespass. This usually means that nobody has to warn you, they don’t have to post signs.. if you are on RR property you can be cited immediately. Sounds like if you follow Greasefoot’s advice, you could probably avoid being cited.
Tell them you are lost and you did not know…
Every damn time I get to the end of the SS trail, I get lost.
On the topic of a video, I’ve always wanted to do a handle-bars level shot of riding along on a nice smooth trail, then showing what it takes to actually get into Pittsburgh, i.e. riding on 837 where there is about 8 inches of shoulder (most cluttered with debris, fine gravel and trash). I’ve even had cyclist friends offer to pose as irate motorists while I was filming and pass me, shouting obscenities out their passenger window. I always thought Dan Onorato’s camp would love to find that in their email inbox at this time of year right before the election.
Make the video, but keep it constructive rather than confrontational. “Here’s what we have to deal with. It’s government’s job to support the changes we need.”
Has anyone checked to see what sort of cycling support either gubernatorial candidate will provide? As head of PennDOT, we would have a hard time filling Mr Biehler’s shoes, either party. Without thinking too hard about it, I can guess that one party may be more willing to listen to cyclist issues than the other.
Under Dan Onorato’s watch, the GAP got new trail from McKeesport to Duquesne, and is getting new trail from Duquesne to Homestead soon. He set a two year goal date for the rest, and that was 11 months ago.
I think it’s a bad idea to attack him politically because there’s insufficient visible progress at the 46% mark on one remaining section.
If you want more bike trails, attacking the candidate who helped build some, instead of the candidate who wants less government spending and more public/private partnerships (like the city’s parking lease plan), seems counterproductive.
Darla is a good person. She’s very active on these issues. She’s played a part in a lot of the trail development in the region.
It’s possible that her hands are tied – consider that not only is she representing a government agency, but she’s also dealing with a variety of private property owners, including the railroad, and several other agencies, such as ATA and RTC. Like it or not, that adds complexity to any negotiations. Also, since different organizations have different goals and they report to different constituencies, it’s often the easiest path for everyone involved to keep things quiet until there are concrete results to announce. Again, that isn’t to everyone’s liking, but the goal is to get the job done.
In that sense, as Steven has observed, attacking Onorato is conterproductive in this case. He has publicly committed to completing the GAP connection, and under his watch, many key pieces have gone into place. (Riverton Bridge, Whittaker flyover, etc.)
It’s very frustrating how slow progress can be, but there *is* progress. When I moved to Pittsburgh, there was no GAP. Since that time, not only have I seen a hundred miles of trail opened, but the inclusion of a variety of construction, including the reopening of the Big Savage tunnel, the Hot Metal Bridge, the Riverton Bridge, the Salsbury viaduct, and others. I totally empathize with the urge to get things done right now – it would be so sweet to hop on my bike at my house and have an easy, non-837 path to the GAP. It’s happening, though. The people who are making it happen are not the enemy!
Attacking or embarrassing someone the day be for an election is not a good idea and will not work. I agree this would be counterproductive.
A much better approach would be to request something in exchange for an endorsement.
Open the gates before Nov 2nd and you can have my vote!
The only time I have seen actual progress was when Sandcastle was publicly embarrassed by the “Kennywoodn’t” t-shirts and subsequent newspaper article and that momentary “we’ll have an announcement any day now” thing earlier this year but otherwise don’t see any functional progress.
Anything antagonistic to candidates who are actually helping us will be counterproductive to our long-term goals.
I think the new Sandcastle owners are on board with the vision. That website would have made more sense two or three years ago under the old ownership.
@pghbikeguy – funny idea, but I doubt you’d need to hire people to pose as irate motorists. Just ride around for awhile and I’m sure you’ll get enough of the real deal.
(+1 for not antagonizing those who are trying to help us)
The carrot or a stick…
Open the gates before Nov 2nd and I’ll vote for you.
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