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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Those who argue over treehouses should not throw stones (UPDATED)

Posted By on Thu, May 27, 2010 at 6:12 PM

Or something.

Treehousegate has now gone to the NEXT LEVEL. 

Not long ago, Doug Shields' office released the following statement, blaming the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy for doing a bad job of speaking with the community.

The Conservancy did not fulfill its obligation to communicate with all parties when it partnered with Amy Ambrusko to create a memorial for Kate and Peter. This grieving Mom deserved better.

I am disappointed that the Conservancy was irresponsible when it led the community to believe that an appropriate memorial is ready to go when it is, in fact, only a concept at this time.

There will be ample time for all parties to share their opinions, and I encourage everyone to attend the June 7th community meeting. When citizens, government and non-profits work together, good things can happen. And I know that a grieving Mom will have a lasting tribute to her children.

The statement also included the text of a Conservancy blog post I referenced last night, viewable here.

Nobody asked my advice, but I'm not sure this was such a good idea.

UPDATE: I will say, though, that I wouldn't blame anyone in Regent Square for being confused at this point.

Compare, for example, the way Virginia Montanez describes the historic background:

Amy and the Parks Conservancy decided on a unique treehouse type of play area for children to play in at Frick Park ...

So, with money coming into the conservancy, proposed designs being drawn up, and a perfect spot in Frick Park identified, it appeared everything was moving along just swimmingly.

to yesterday's statement from the Parks Conservancy:

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy would like to address public opinion about an outdoor learning space concept proposed for Frick Park.  The concept is part of a larger effort to construct a new Environmental Center in Frick Park with supporting outdoor learning spaces throughout the park.

The concept is part of a larger effort to construct a new Environmental Center in Frick Park with supporting outdoor learning spaces throughout the park.

Although none of these spaces has even a preliminary design, the idea is that they would be subtle, blend into the environment, and provide places to learn about nature in a playful setting.

The bolding in both those quotes was mine. Because on the one hand, it sounds like the design of this project is well underway. On the other, the conservancy is making it sound like it's barely begun. 

I've got a call into the conservancy, in hopes of clearing this up. In the meantime, I will say that based on what I've heard, this Treehouse is further along than the Conservancy's note makes it sound. 

MORE UPDATE: The Post-Gazette has a story out on this today that clarifies the picture. Shields -- who is now acknowledging that his staffer said something "inappropriate," contra to earlier claims made to me -- says that residents had the impression that this proposal was a "done deal." The Conservancy, though, says that they are only weighing preliminary designs and so on.

"I'm not sure why there was a perception that there was a memorial ready to go," a spokesman told the paper. "That certainly was not the case. The truth is that we're so early in the process that there was very little to share."

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