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The watercraft launch under the 40th Street Bridge has become less accessible to area kayakers and canoers. - PHOTO BY HEATHER MULL
  • Photo by Heather Mull
  • The watercraft launch under the 40th Street Bridge has become less accessible to area kayakers and canoers.
A river-access point along the Allegheny River has, for now, become a bit less accessible to area boaters. A line of caution tape threaded through a metal chain between eight, one-ton chunks of concrete now blocks the dirt parking lot near the 40th Street Bridge kayak launch in Lawrenceville.

According to officials in charge of the river-access point, the barrier is meant to keep people from driving onto the river trail or abandoning vehicles in the area.

Indirectly, the barrier also serves as a minor inconvenience for kayakers and canoers who hope to launch their boats into the Allegheny River from under the bridge. Until repairs to the area are finished later this summer, their trek to the river's edge is now at least doubled in length.

"You'll have to carry your kayak an extra 100 feet," says Jim Martin, head of operations for the National Robotics Engineering Consortium (NREC) and project coordinator for the river trail from 40th Street to 43rd Street. "It's not exactly a hardship."

The access point has been used by kayakers and canoers since it opened in June 2004. Boaters could park their cars on the unfinished parking lot just beside the riverfront walking trail, and carry their boats down a gravel path about 50 feet to the launch -- one of nine along the Allegheny River between the Point and Verona.

Martin says the blocks were positioned last autumn, after he learned people were driving their vehicles onto the river trail. One person even abandoned a car and burned it beneath the bridge. Not long after that, Martin decided it was time to block vehicle entrance.

"We haven't had any cars burned under the bridge since we put the barriers up," Martin says.

Someone did, however, move the blocks in order to pass through. "Whoever moved those blocks used heavy machinery," Martin says -- and he suspects bridge inspectors or other public-works crews, rather than overly eager kayakers. Still, he adds, "I can't speculate as to what lengths people would go."

Martin says the concrete blocks will be removed after the parking lot is repaired. He says the lot will be graded and a nearby picnic area fixed. A new fence will be installed to protect the trail from cars, and signs will also be posted to make sure people know where they can and can't park their vehicles.

According to Tom Baxter, executive director of Friends of the Riverfront, some complications are slowing the project's progress.

"It's just taking some time because there are lots of drainage issues," he says. "We want to make sure it's done right so that it lasts."

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