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North Park Lake Reopens Saturday, Park Offers Free Festivities

The reopening ceremony set for 11:30 a.m. will feature County Executive Dan Onorato, Rep. Jason Altmire, D-Fourth District, and other officials who helped secure funding for the project.

Allegheny County officials have a big bash planned for the reopening of Lake Saturday, with free activities for adults and children from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Festivities begin at 10 a.m. with bike rides led by Pittsburgh Trail Advocacy Group and a 5K Fun Run & Walk around the lake, giving folks an opportunity to admire the impoundment as it was meant to look when it was built on Pine Creek in 1936.  that had accumulated over the years.  

The reopening ceremony set for 11:30 a.m. will feature County Executive Dan Onorato, Rep. Jason Altmire, D-Fourth District, and other officials who helped secure funding for the project.

Although the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contributed $5 million, the county picked up most of the tab, which also covered launch improvements and the dredging of Irwin Run pond this past spring. 

Lack of adequate rainfall has kept the lake so low, the free canoe rides originally slated for tomorrow’s “lakefest” may have to be scrapped, and it could be weeks before folks can get onto the water, said Steve Smallhoover, the county engineer who managed the two-year, $21 million lake restoration.

As of Friday morning, the county hadn’t officially canceled tomorrow’s float trips, but Smallhoover doubted they would occur.

“The lake is at least six feet below spillway elevation and not suited to boating,” he said. “It’s not just about water levels. It’s about filling in the surface area of the lake.”

Lakefest organizers said there are so many activities planned for tomorrow that folks will have too much fun to lament low water.

“Not getting onto the lake---if that winds up being the case--won’t be a big deal,” said county spokesman Kevin Evanto. 

Few folks are more excited about the reopening of the lake than Gary Rigdon, chair of Friends of North Park, a stewardship and advocacy group that has served in an advisory role throughout the lake’s restoration. 

“It’s been a long time coming and it cost a lot of money, but it’s really worth it,” said Rigdon, of McCandless. “After watching the lake get shallower and more unsanitary each year, it’ll be great to have deep, clean water.”

His group will lead hikes through the park tomorrow beginning at 1 p.m., and a scavenger hunt at 2:30 p.m., and will share a booth with the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.

Lee Stauffer, secretary of the Allison Park Sportsmen’s Club, is also delighted the lake is about to reopen. It means his group can once again sponsor Don Wagner Memorial Kids Fishing Day, a popular annual tradition.

“When the county closed the lake, we couldn’t find another suitable location,” said Stauffer, of Shaler. “This year, we put $1,000 worth of trout in the pond above the boathouse at Rochester Grove, and 82 kids showed up.”

“It’ll be good to get back to the lake next year.”

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission also plans to resume its annual trout stockings for opening day, and while it has begun to stock warm-water species, such as crappies, those populations will take time to establish. Structures installed in the lake will help fish to colonize. 

The county is advertising fishing at Marshall Pond tomorrow and has waived the admission fee at the North Park pool, where a disc jockey will play music. 

The Corps’ Bobber the Water Safety Dog will be on hand from noon to 3 p.m., along with Mike the Balloon Guy, face painters and local vendors. 

In keeping with a picnic mood, Roadside Ribs of Bridgeville will sell $5 pulled pork sandwiches, $3 grilled hot dogs, $1 beverages, and $2 ice cream treats. Turner’s Iced Tea, Doterra, 5-Hour Energy, and Dick’s Sporting Goods will offer giveaways, while Zoot Island will perform calypso, reggae, salsa and classic oldies music.

For more information, visit www.alleghenycounty.us/lakefest.

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