Aspinwall, Blawnox close ballfields, playgrounds to enforce social distancing - FoxChapel

Aspinwall, Blawnox close ballfields, playgrounds to enforce social distancing

Tuesday, March 24, 2020 | 2:21 PM

Aspinwall and Blawnox officials are taking a hard line on enforcing social distancing by closing down dog parks, playgrounds and ball fields.

“People were gathering at the dog park, standing way too close together,” Melissa Lang O’Malley, Aspinwall manager, said. “We don’t want to encourage people to be out there playing ball.”

Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday rolled out a stay-at-home order for residents in Allegheny and six other Pennsylvania counties in an effort to stop the coronavirus outbreak.

Wolf’s order allows trips to the grocery stores and pharmacies, as well as encourages exercise – with the caveat that people abide by social distancing.

Blawnox Manager Kathy Ulanowicz said the decision was made to close the community park largely because a new playground unit has quickly become a daily stop for local daycare and neighborhood children.

“It’s not that we don’t want people at the park, but the question was how to keep the playground unit clean,” she said.

In Sharpsburg, green spaces like the James Sharp Landing and Kennedy Park remain open, but the 16th Street Playground is closed, officials said.

Likewise, O’Hara is allowing use of its many walking trails throughout township parks while encouraging people to stay six feet from others.

Earlier this week, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources announced that an initial 14-day closure of state park facilities would extend through April 30. Trails, open spaces and parking areas will remain available for hiking but campgrounds, cabins, restrooms and visitors’ centers are closed.

Allegheny County Parks remain open with portable toilets, but all park programs have been canceled and facilities closed.

Hartwood Acres Mansion and North Park’s Latodami Nature Center are closed. Programs at Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve in Fox Chapel are canceled through April 15, but trails remain open from dawn until dusk.

Across the Lower Valley, municipal officials have shuttered their physical offices for the time being.

Local government leaders are available, though it will be by phone and email for the next few weeks.

O’Malley posted an alert on the borough’s Facebook page telling residents that these are unprecedented times and borough leaders are taking necessary steps to keep the borough’s daily operations going.

Aspinwall Emergency Management Coordinator Andy Marsh talks daily with members of his team and plans to begin bi-weekly conferences with council.

Officials have asked residents to stop sharing books and puzzles, and other porch pick-up items, because of the chance of spreading covid-19.

Foxwall EMS Chief Josh Worth said his group also is in daily contact with Fox Chapel, Aspinwall and Allegheny County officials and has developed a comprehensive plan for internal and external responses to the pandemic.

Worth said plans are aligned with Foxwall’s response partners, which include fire, police and emergency services, to deal with any issues that may arise.

“We could not do this without the dedicated EMS providers on the front lines in every community,” Worth said.

He encouraged residents to visit the Foxwall website,, for up-to-date information from the state and county departments of health.

Ulanowicz believes residents are mostly abiding by CDC guidelines to shelter at home.

“I’m not getting a lot of calls from residents about being unhappy,” she said. “Mostly, they have questions about water bills or taxes. It’s business as usual, the building is just closed for now.”