Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Kate and Peter's Treehouse - the good news and the maybe not-so-good news...

Because I tend to be an optimist I will give you the good news first. We have received some design proposals (by we I mean me, the Parks Conservancy and some other awesome people who have agreed to help with this project) and have selected some design teams to interview. This is pretty exciting - we've seen some examples of what these creative landscape architects and artists can do and soon they'll be able to tell us how they plan to make Kate and Peter's Treehouse the coolest treehouse ever!

And because I want you to feel really good before I tell you the not-so-good news, I'll tell you that the amount of money donated to this project continues to grow - a fact that constantly overwhelms me with people's kindness and generosity. Recently, while looking over my records of donations, I figured out that we've received donations from almost 700 individuals and businesses from 30 states, the District of Columbia, Canada and Australia. That's pretty darn amazing!

(By the way, some of you have emailed me and requested information on how to donate online. You can click on Kate and Peter's Picture where it says "Kate and Peter's Treehouse" on the left side of my blog or you can click HERE. Be sure to designate that you're donating to Kate and Peter's Treehouse. Thank you so much for your interest and for you donations!)

So here it is, the not-so-good news:

It seems as though there are some people who don't want this treehouse to be built in the part of Frick Park we have been considering. This certainly isn't the worst news in the world, nor is it any sort of deal-breaker or project-stopper, but it is concerning. To me, it's confusing and disheartening.

I will certainly admit to the fact that I am naive and tend to see the world through rose-colored glasses, despite all the stuff life has thrown at me, but it never occurred to me that people might not want Kate and Peter's Treehouse. Since hearing this news I've had to take a couple of steps back and consider why people might not want a play space for kids in their neighborhood and if I'm just being selfish by wanting to build it there. At this point I don't know the answers to these questions, but i do know that it's certainly not all about me.

The reason I first thought of this area of Frick Park, which is known as Turtle Park - located in Regent Square next to the site of the Environmental Charter School, is because my kids really enjoyed playing there so it has a special significance to me. It's a very accessible part of the park, located in a neighborhood with a lot of kids. Kate and Peter's Treehouse would provide a state-of-the-art, educational play space for neighborhood kids, school students and other community members.

Right now there is a picnic table, a couple of benches, a big grassy area and a large turtle (which is why it's called Turtle Park). I walk through Turtle Park all the time and I know lots of folks in the neighborhood use that grassy area for picnics or pick-up football games so I certainly wouldn't want to change that space. However, behind the turtle is a grove of trees which, in my opinion, would be a great place for kids to run and climb and play in the trees. But again, my opinion is not the only one that counts.

I haven't heard directly from any of the people who oppose Kate and Peter's Treehouse, but I'd definitely like to understand their concerns. The last thing I want to do is disrupt people's lives unnecessarily or do something detrimental to their neighborhood. What is confusing to me is that I thought playgrounds and play spaces raised property values and benefited nearby residents, but maybe I'm wrong.

The most important thing now is that peoples voices be heard. Obviously, hundreds of people support this project. And now it is apparent that some people oppose it. It is vital that both sides speak out so we can figure out if this location is the best place for the Treehouse or if it would be better to build it somewhere else.

There will be a presentation and question and answer session at the Regent Square Civic Association meeting on Monday, June 7 at 6pm at the Wilkins School Community Center. This will be a great opportunity for people to voice their support or opposition about Kate and Peter's Treehouse. If those of you who live in Pittsburgh and/or use Pittsburgh Parks feel strongly about this project and can get there, I would love to see you at this meeting!

If you can't make it to the meeting, but want your voice to be heard you can Contact Doug Shields, the City Councilman whose District includes this part of Regent Square, at 412 255-8965.


  1. Amy, I can't come to the meeting, but I just sent Doug Shields an email. I'm in Edgewood, so I don't know how much he'll care, but I wanted to speak up for this project. Let us know how it goes... I truly can not fathom what the resistance to this would be...

  2. I will definitely make my voice heard in favor of the project as well - also in Edgewood, but... maybe sheer numbers of people or reasons FOR such a project will help.

  3. Amy - your approach to this is so caring and genuine and humble. It may be a challenge to sit through and hear opposition to the amazing treehouse, but you are all so great to entertain it. There's always a squeeky wheel, right?

    I think you will find many many many more people in support of the treehouse!!!!!!

    Let me know if I can help from here in any way!!


  4. I have voiced my support for this wonderful program via the Council District 5 Feedback Page (http://www.city.pittsburgh.pa.us/district5/html/district_5_feedback.html). This is a very special way to give to the community, share with the children and memorialize Kate & Peter. I hope this happens and look forward to following the progress!

  5. Hi Amy,
    I don't live in your community but I have covered City Council meetings in my hometown and am familiar with the typical gripes from residents who don't like changes in their neighborhoods. Oftentimes, it's because they worry about maintaining structures and additional noise. Before the meeting, you may ask the city who would be responsible for the upkeep of the treehouse so you can allay fears BEFORE they are mentioned during the open meeting. As far as the noise, find supportive residents who live near similar play areas to "testify" that the noise hasn't increased since their park was built up. Hope this helps.

  6. I'm so happy to hear how many people from different states and all over the world have donated! That is SO COOL! =)

    But, I'm also very sad to hear people are complaining. I'd guess that these are the same people who are stopping the building expansion of ECS and don't want the school to expand past what it was last year. I don't understand their dislike for the school or for a cool play area for kids to honor Kate and Peter.

    Hopefully there are enough of us who are excited about this that the Treehouse will go off without a hitch!

  7. Amy, I am overjoyed with how many people from all over the world have supported Kate and Peter's Treehouse. You have handled this most recent Treehouse obstacle with grace and I admire you in so many ways. I will be out of town during the meeting, however I sent an email to Doug in favor of the Treehouse. Hang there and keep thinking positive thoughts. The Treehouse will be a wonderful addition the the community and I am very excited to see it transform from a dream into a fun and inspiring place to play. Keep on believing, you've got so many wonderful supporters including myself!

  8. Cannot make it to the meeting either but I did leave a message on the Zone 5 feedback site. There isn't any doubt in my mind that these are indeed the same people who so vehemently opposed the school expansion. There are many people in the neighborhood who support the school and would probably support this project as well if they knew about it. They just don't go out and vocalize their support. Please be prepared for what you might meet at the meeting. If their tone is anything like what they have brought to the table during the Expansion meetings, it won't be friendly. These people have a big issue with what they call entitlement on the part of the school and its students. They are basically doing the very thing they are accusing the school of doing. Because they live near this public space they think they are entitled to decide what is to be done with it.

  9. I meant to say Council District 5, not Zone 5!

  10. Amy-First, I ditto Peggy, I am so impressed w/ your very inclusive response and desire to hear all perspectives. I also ditto the individual who advised thinking through potential complaints (noise, upkeep, etc.) and getting points of view from others who have recently had these types of community playgrounds established in your neighborhood. Thinking of you and hoping that the meetings are productive, constructive and result in the best outcome for all! HUGS. Sarah

  11. I live too far away (Houston, TX) but believe me - I will go to Doug Shields' website and make my voice heard! I don't know that he will care about what someone from Houston thinks, but I figure it certainly cannot hurt!

    I find it unfathomable that anyone wouldn't want this project to proceed. I can understand if people wanted to voice their concerns and had constructive criticisms or came up with alternative ideas - but to just say they don't want it, end of story - that is just wrong. This is in memory of two amazing children and will be a wonderful place to play for children for years to come. I certainly hope that these few Debbie Downers do not win this one!

    Best of luck! You are such an amazing, understand and humble person. :-)

  12. Amy, I just left a message on the District 5 Web Feedback page. I hope it helps!!!

  13. Amy,

    I am the Chief of Staff in Councilman Doug Shields' office. I have received some good feedback from your friends and blog followers. I would love to discuss this opportunity with you further.

    Please call me at 412-255-8965 when you have a moment.

    Thank you,

    Judy Feldman

  14. Amy, I can't voice my concern in favor of the treehouse since I'm not local. But I do support it. In fact I just stopped by and made my donation. It's small, but it'll add to the kitty to make it even awesomer than you described.
    Love and prayers to you.


  15. Amy: I think Ginny sent you my information. If I can help in any way, please let me know.

    Kathy Clark

  16. Upon Ginny's suggestion, I left an angry (but mostly polite) phone message for Mr. Shields. I'd love to take my kids to the treehouse some day. Keep fighting!

  17. Amy - I am so impressed at your ability to keep your cool during this. I am outraged - I can not fathom someone not supporting this. I have sent my e-mail to Mr. Shields' office and I will do all I can to attend the meeting, but please know you have my complete support.


  18. I heard the update today (via Ginny). I have to say, I'm irritated and disappointed. I left the following message via the the Council District 5 Feedback Page (http://www.city.pittsburgh.pa.us/district5/html/district_5_feedback.html). I would ask that each of you do the same. It's on!

    Let it be noted, regarding your caving to a vocal minority regarding the Kate and Peter Treehouse--to paraphrase from your notice "if everyone built a memorial in Frick Park..." it would not look like a cemetery. If everybody turned a tough situation into a positive, quietly raised funds and wanted to give something to the kids of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh would be an even more beautiful place that had playgrounds, rather than streets, for the children to play in. If everybody gave to the community the way that was proposed, we would have a community to be proud of. In stead, we have yet another politician caving to a bunch of NIMBY's that still feel the world owes them from the collapse of the steel industry. Embarrassing!

  19. Not an answer to your post, but I assume it is the same people who were opposed to the Environmental School being in their neighborhood--they had problems and concerns re: the parking and traffic. My guess is that this is what you are going to hear re: the treehouse.

    There are always going to be NIMBYs (Not In My Backyard) folks who want to kill any project--bring LOTS of people in for support and their voices will be drowned out...Best of luck to you and I sure hope the naysayers realize what an amazing gift you are giving to their neighborhood.

  20. Emailed Doug Shields. We'll fight this, Amy. There WILL be a treehouse. Kate and Peter are going to learn about perseverance through watching their mama (and the rest of Pgh, because HOLY CRAP we are 150% behind you).


  21. Oh Amy...Ginny has stirred up her congregation and there's a lot of outrage in the pews over there at "That's Church"! We've got your back girl.

  22. To my loving family, Amy and Steven Ambrusko and the wonderful people of Pittsburgh supporting the Playground memorializing my Grandaughter, Kate and Grandson, Peter.

    Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for all the love and support you have shown my family.

    My husband and I are SO PROUD of all the work Amy has done to try to make the Playground real.

    My husband and I are from the Buffalo, NY area and are behind Amy and Steve 100%. Pittsburgh was where my grandchildren lived and went to school and I cannot think of a better way to pay tribute to both of them. The Playground will be more like a work of "Art", inviting children, their parents and grandparents, as well as the neighborhood and will enhance this already beautiful community. This is a POSITIVE thing! We need to provide happiness, hope and creativity for our children today, since this world we all live in is full of so many challenges.

    We both miss our Grandchildren so very very much as do Amy and Steve. Please rally around Amy on June 7th and make this Playground happen.

    All our love and support
    Donna and Len Ambrusko

  23. While I am no longer a resident of the city of Pittsburgh, I am a true 'Burgher at heart and I have been following your blog and a big supporter for a very long time now. This news has sickened me and I will do whatever I can to make sure your children receive the fitting tribute they deserve.

  24. Oh Amy, you continue to amaze me. Here, in the midst of this frustration and heartache, you continue to rise up and show your strength. You are an incredible woman and you have already made your kiddos so proud.

    This is just a setback. This park will move forward and it will be so beautiful. I can't wait to take my kids there someday.

  25. I just left an email for Doug and I want you to know I am behind you 100%. I am looking forward to taking my children there to play as soon as it is built

  26. I grew up in the square and currently live there. I climbed the turtle when it was at Forbes & Braddock and my daughter climbs the turtle now.

    Our family looks forward to the Treehouse. Keep it up; you will have the support you need on June 7th.

  27. Amy, I read through your post and my heart is 100% behind Kate and Peter's Treehouse. I'm moving to Pittsburgh on June 12 so I am disheartened that I cannot participate in the community meeting for you. Especially because Regent Square is EXACTLY where we will be looking for a home. Your post is so open-hearted and open-minded. You are a beautiful soul and you bring honor to your children's memory with or without a treehouse. Blessings to you!

  28. Amy.. You truly are amazing. You may not remember me, but we had dinner together at LasVelas last November when you, your friend and Suzette [last name?] invited me to join you (I was dining alone). I'm a 55-yo divorced male... my only child a 21-yo daughter means everything to me. I'm not ashamed to say I cry when I visit your blog.. I could never ever imagine what you have gone through. Not only can I pray for you, I gave $$ to Kate and Peter's Treehouse today. Take care and God Bless You.

  29. You are a class act. You should be so proud of yourself.

    I am just reading this now, and it seems like you have worked things out with Doug Shields, but I will make sure I check back more regularly just in case you need more support.
    Hang in there.

  30. I don't think any residents of Regent Square would not support the idea of building a memorial to your children and their lives... I just don't think the location works because it seems like your using public land to build a playground for the school. It appears that way, because there is an amazing playspace for children at Forbes and Braddock, a block away from the proposed site. Why not build somewhere that would benefit underserved children who don't have any playspace? Good luck with making your vision a reality and god bless. You seem like an amazing and inspiring woman.