Point State Park has gained national recognition as one of the American Planning Association’s ten great public spaces for 2014
by Andrew W. Henderson
The American Planning Association has named Downtown’s Point State Park as one of ten great public spaces on its 2014 list of Great Places in America.
Not only does the park serve as one of Pittsburgh’s greatest landmarks, but it is also a place for Point Park students to get away from campus and do what they love in a space with a little bit of green.
“There’s nothing else like it in Pittsburgh,” said Nicolette Kalafatis, a sophomore cinema production major from the South Hills in a telephone interview on Friday. “It actually has trees, and I miss that living in the city.”
As someone who does work with both photography and film, Kalafatis says that The Point provides an excellent space for artists to work.
“I never get tired of taking photographs of the fountain,” she said. “The Point is very useful for a lot of people for taking photographs, going out on a date or to hang out with friends.”
She recalls one specific night last winter when she and a friend went to the park after a heavy snowfall. They took trash bags with them to sit on, but wound up getting inside of them and using them as makeshift sleds on some of the embankments along the sides of the park. She says this is one of her favorite memories of The Point.
“Who can say they’ve gone sled riding in the city?” Kalafatis said.
Taylor Hornung, a junior animation major, also uses the park for recreation. She is using the ramps, trails and stairs throughout the park to learn how to skateboard.
Point State Park serves the needs of students beyond just recreation. Hannah James, a sophomore cinema production major, said that Point State Park is one of her favorite places to study. In fact, she chose one of the large trees along the main green as her personal “study tree.”
She got the idea from the popular television show “Gilmore Girls.” The tree has become a regular study spot for her because of the peaceful surroundings. And if studying gets to be too stressful, there is always something interesting going on to take her mind off her work for a few minutes.
Of course, not just any tree would do.
“I searched the park because I needed the perfect one,” she said in an interview in Lawrence Hall on Friday.
James is also a member of Point Park’s track and field team, which regularly practices in the park.
“It’s the closest place to spread out,” she said. “It allows a lot of space for drills.”
The team runs from campus to the entrance to the park where they drill as well as do conditioning exercises and sprints.
The park, along with the rest of Pennsylvania’s state parks, is operated by Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).
According to the DCNR website, Point State Park sits on the former location of both the French Fort Duquesne and the British Fort Pitt. The park now commemorates the history of those forts and the impact that they had on the French and Indian War, and the subsequent Westward Expansion.
Later, The Point fell victim to Pittsburgh’s industrial revolution, becoming something of a slum of old warehouses. Because of this, the rebuilding of the park was authorized in the 1940’s and completed in 1974.
In 2007, a massive renovation project was announced as part of Pittsburgh’s 250th anniversary. The project was completed in June of 2013, having created the park that Pittsburgh’s students know and love today.
“The APA award really acknowledges that the renovations brought the park back to a place where people feel safe and where they can enjoy themselves,” said Stephan Bontrager, Director of Communications at Riverlife, an organization devoted to restoring and rejuvenating the riverfront areas of Pittsburgh during a telephone interview on Friday.
Since the renovations, the park has almost doubled the number of visitors annually, a number that is approaching three million people every year.
Bontrager, who received his masters in mass communication and journalism from Point Park University in 2005, says that being able to watch the revitalization of The Point and Pittsburgh’s downtown over the past years has been an incredible experience for him. He says that The Point’s significance in Pittsburgh’s history is massive.
“The Point is why Pittsburgh is where it is,” he said. “When Point State Park was designed, it was a game-changer for Pittsburgh. It cleared away the rail yards and slums and created this green space.”
The APA award is not the only recognition The Point has received recently. On Tuesday night, the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit organization which researches and recognizes real estate and land use throughout the world, honored Point State Park its “Best Community Place” award.
Regardless of whether it is to study or relax, skate or run, Point State Park serves as a welcome escape from the bustle of the city for many Point Park University students.
“I use the skateboarding as an excuse to get outside,” said Hornung with a laugh. “The Point has the freshest air you can get in the city.”
Published by The Globe Newspaper at Point Park University on October 14, 2014