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An offshore drilling platform is not being erected in Lake Emilie. The old schoolhouse hasn't been sold to ExxonMobil. And there's no derrick in the McKeesport Arboretum.
After the recent decision to allow a Westmoreland County company to drill for natural gas in the so-called Palkovitz property, city officials are trying to squelch some of the wilder rumors.
Although council this month voted 7-0 to add the 27-acre parcel to Renziehausen Park, that does not open the door to drilling anywhere else, said J. Jason Elash, city solicitor.
"I've heard rumors that the city is drilling all over Renzie Park, and that's simply not the case," he said. At a public hearing in October, officials of Penneco Pipeline Corp. of Delmont said they intend to drill three wells on the parcel in exchange for paying the city an annual royalty payment of up to $14,400 per well per year.
According to a map displayed at this month's council meeting by outgoing Mayor James Brewster, the well site would be off of the intersection of York and Mercantile streets, near the old Babe Charapp Ford property.
Under the city's lease agreement with Penneco, that's the only place where drilling can or will take place, Elash said.
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As for the concurrent rumor that drilling in Renzie is against the law, Elash said it's a common misunderstanding, because of the way the 258-acre park was created.
According to the city's official 1976 history, Renzie was created at the behest of department store owner Henry H. Renziehausen, who donated $50,000 for the creation of a city park. The first parcel was purchased in 1931, and the city borrowed $140,000 to purchase additional land. Other parcels were donated over the years.
As a result, Elash said, Renzie isn't one large piece of land --- it's literally dozens of small pieces. Many of those pieces carry restrictions --- known as "deed covenants" --- that prohibit mining, drilling and other commercial activities.
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But there is no blanket prohibition on commercial activity in the entire park, and no ordinance, either, he said. If there were, things like refreshment stands and other concessions would also be outlawed, Elash said.
And no such restriction against commercial activity was ever placed on the Palkovitz property, which was taken by the city in 2009 in lieu of back taxes. Indeed, part of the vacant site along Eden Park Boulevard was once used as a garbage dump.
Similar to Renzie, the Palkovitz site itself is comprised of five different individual pieces of land, according to a survey map on file with the Allegheny County Recorder of Deeds.
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No formal proposal for incorporating the Palkovitz site into Renzie has yet been developed. But Brewster, who was elected to the state Senate and will resign as mayor at the Dec. 1 council meeting, said one preliminary plan calls for extending the existing fitness/hiking trail through the Palkovitz property, and adding a covered dog-walking area along Main Street at the end of Easler Street.
As part of its construction of the gas well, Brewster said, Penneco has agreed to help the city develop access roads into the site.
"In fact, they would help put that trail in throughout the whole wooded area," he said, "so I think it's going to be a very nice addition to the park."
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Lions Bandshell Designated: In other Renzie news, the city will formally name the park's bandshell in honor of the McKeesport Lions Club, which donated the money to build the structure in 1952.
The move came at the suggestion of Lions Club President Dan Carr, owner of the Viking Lounge on Versailles Avenue. This year's summer concert series, operated by the Lions Club in conjunction with the city's parks and recreation department, was a "huge success," Carr said.
Instead of the usual five concerts, 12 were held this year, and an attempt was made to book a wider variety of acts to appeal to younger people, he said, including The Smicks and Scott Blasey of The Clarks.
"People who came in from out of town couldn't believe how nice things were," Carr said. "They said, 'This is McKeesport?' I said, yes, it's McKeesport."
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Raffles held by the Lions during the concerts raised more than $2,800 for city recreation programs, he said. In addition, Carr said, the Lions also want to erect a covered pavilion and take over maintenance of the bandshell, if an agreement can be reached with Teamsters Local 205, which represents city public works employees.
"We want to raise the visibility of the Lions Club, and Renzie Park is a project we think we can really sink our teeth into," he said.
I applaud the naming of the Renzie bandshell for the Lion’s Club. The Lion’s Club has done so much good over the years, not only for our region but for mankind in general. Their untiring efforts to help the blind is noteworthy and should receive our support. This naming was long overdue and is now most welcome! I look forward to next summer’s concert series – something we have enjoyed over the years! This recognition is the right thing to do! Thanks for informing your readers!
Donn Nemchick - November 18, 2010
Even though we only made it to the Beatles tribute show, I was glad to see something more than the same rotation of oldies and doo-wop. There’s just not a lot of draw for that sort of thing if you’re under retirement age.
John - November 18, 2010
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