From the President: Field Improvement Project

Improving the quality and appearance of Heths and Natoli Fields is a hot topic these days. Over the summer MACC retained the services of design and planning firm Pashek and Associates through a grant from the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh. The project, resulting from a dialogue between local government officials, residents and youth athletic teams, was rooted as a way to identify and improve the quality and safety of the playing surfaces, encourage cooperation between organizations and modernize the facilities at the two fields. The purpose of the resulting plan is to identify community priorities and provide the community and local government guidance for cultivating and making renovation and investment decisions in the future.

Over the course of the last few months, Pashek and Associates and MACC volunteers have held more than ten meetings with representatives from youth athletic teams, groups of neighbors, city officials, and the Highland Park Community Council. MACC has hosted discussions at monthly MACC meetings, coordinated surveys and conducted numerous individual interviews. For the most part, the planning process has enjoyed neighborly cooperation and spirited input. At the core, folks want to participate and know that their input matters and is considered in the plan’s development. What we’ve learned so far is that there is agreement that the fields are wonderful, well used assets; and that they need the community’s and our city’s attention and resources. We also learned that because of the popularity and proximity of the parks, their value and impact stretches beyond Morningside into portions of Highland Park and beyond.

As part of the planning input process, the professional design team at Pashek and Associates has made some initial recommendations. Their recommendations are the result of community input, specifically the challenges faced by youth athletic programs and the concerns of park users, and their analysis of the existing use and configuration of the fields. Many of the recommendations challenge the way we as Morningsiders and Highland Parkers look at the two fields.

In a snapshot, Pashek and Associates’ recommendations include improvement of the playground facilities at both fields, providing additional parking at both locations, adding safety lighting and connecting to the Heth’s Run Restoration project to name a few of the suggestions. In addition, one of the key recommendations is to convert  Natoli Field, a diamond shaped field, to the home for baseball and softball activities; and use Heth’s Field, a rectangular shaped field, for youth football and soccer. Currently, Natoli Field is used for youth football, soccer and baseball and Heths’ Field is used for softball. The professional reasoning for this recommendation made by Pashek and Associates is that by separating the uses of “rectangular” and “diamond” sports to fields that share the best configuration for their respective activity will allow for higher quality and safer field surfaces for the kids and improve maintenance and upkeep. The parking, playground and numerous other enhancement recommendations are the result of surveys, on-site inspections and the need to meet basic safety standards for public park facilities.

On October 17th, MACC hosted a public meeting where residents and neighbors learned of the input that has helped shaped the plan to date as well as the recommendations being made by Pashek and Associates based on that input. Residents were able to provide suggestions and recommendations to enhance the plan at that meeting. MACC also discussed the plan at the November 7th MACC meeting and has provided a survey along with copies of the renderings at www. Please provide your comments and suggestions.

The completed field improvement plan will provide guidance, recommendations and suggested improvements and timeframes for completion. The plan provides a framework for change. And, to be clear, not all change is possible or even advisable; the plan helps us understand what is possible without forcing change. Implementation of a plan will require cooperation and a community effort. Some action items will be easy to identify and accomplish; others will require financial resources and may necessitate further community conversation. However, the point of going through the exercise is to encourage cooperation between all users of the field, take into consideration the context or location of the parks and what surrounds them and improve these well loved places.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions we welcome your input.

Grant Ervin
MACC President