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EDITORIAL | McKees Rocks: Building bridges or watching them burn?

Updated: Mar 7, 2023


By The Editorial Board


Recently the McKees Rocks Borough Council decided not to seek grant funding to determine the feasibility of a pedestrian bridge connecting a proposed park plan with a theoretical downtown McKees Rocks.


If that sounds like a lot of far-off hypotheticals to you, you’re not alone.


Still, Councilmember Nick Radoycis used some intense hyperbole about this topic, including comparing a theoretical footbridge with real-life Nazis in 1930s Germany.


Council President Archie Brinza reassured those in attendance who wanted to know more about this maybe-park and idea-of-a-bridge that the council heard them and was listening.


But he seemed to be the only one because everybody else voted not to participate in actually building bridges or the idea of building bridges or the labored metaphor of building metaphorical bridges with community partners.


Nope. Everybody else decided to light a match and watch the bridge burn.


The discussion by the council was intentionally confusing in the lead-up to the vote. Public leaders in a community with few nice amenities refusing to even pursue a feasibility study to increase access to recreation seems like more of the same with one version of the council after another presiding over the borough's continued decline.


An extension of the park onto the flood plain – with bikes paths and raised tree and flower beds – would be nice... and in truth, most likely be used by residents of McKees Rocks if they had access, as they would be able to bicycle straight in without the burden of pedaling up and braking down the steep roadways currently leading to Sheraden Park.


Why on Earth would anyone pursue free money to look into something like that?

So, what’s this all about?

Here’s a helpful timeline: In 2016, the McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation commissioned a study from the Urban Land Institute about ways to “Rebuild the Working Communities of McKees Rocks and Esplen.” Many area movers and shakers, elected officials and residents were interviewed in the process.


In the final report, the Urban Land Institute, composed of 30,000 experts in the field of land use, recommended, “McKees Rocks should evaluate options to consolidate with Stowe Township and surrounding boroughs or to be annexed by the City of Pittsburgh,” something the municipal government may not have liked. It also recommended that the “community should restore the street grid by selectively demolishing a portion of [The Shoppes at] Chartiers Crossing to connect the Hays Manor site to the broader community.”


Another suggestion was for leaders to embrace “the grittiness” (real or perceived) of McKees Rocks history, to “create an underground, insider’s feel that will appeal to the artist and younger demographics that have been drawn to and grown with areas such as Lawrenceville and East Liberty.” Some of that is already in play with Father Ryan Arts Center, Radiant Hall West, Ensemble Actors Studio, Gemini Children’s Theater, the performance space at Black Forge Coffee and the Roxian Theatre.


And finally back to the pedestrian bridge (we’re trying not to be intentionally confusing), there’s a recommendation to promote green space which is where the Sheraden Park Master Plan comes into play. The master plan includes a proposal for a lot of things, including the pedestrian bridge – and is distinct from the 2016 ULI report. It was compiled over years and published in 2020 by the Pittsburgh Department of City Planning.


This plan had input from residents, officials, McKees Rocks CDC and kids, too. It includes suggestions like a jumbo slide, a nature preserve, an apiary and a dog park.


Having a walkable connection to the park would certainly be a boon to all those younger people in McKees Rocks who don’t have the money or access to transportation to get out past the edges of the borough. This park seems like an incredible opportunity to have a beautiful destination close by to bring in young families who want to buy homes so they can be near this urban jewel.


A community in need of vision and progress can't afford leaders who see every opportunity in the worst possible light. Voters long for leaders to lead the town forward, not stagnate it in the harsh status quo at hand now.


This project is so far in the future, there is ample opportunity for residents of McKees Rocks to know about it, understand if they want to see it be pursued, and to influence the way it develops.


In our opinion, residents should have the opportunity to fully grasp what’s being planned – or rejected – on their behalf.


Editor's note: McKees Rocks Councilmember Nick Radoycis, a longtime fire chief, borough proponent and Allegheny County District Attorney was admitted to an area hospital in critical condition and died Sunday, March 5. The team at Gazette 2.0 has Radoycis and his family and friends in our thoughts during this difficult time.


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