'Our hope was that if maybe it didn't look like a garbage dump, maybe people wouldn't treat it like one,' said Dr. John Caldwell, an anesthesiologist who is praised by neighbors for doing much of the day-to-day upkeep and planning for the site.
Officials in Pittsburgh hope that this kind of self-motivated activism, which sprang up without city prompting and with minimal official support, can become infectious, leading to beautification of a growing number of vacant, abandoned lots.
'I wish I saw more work like that around the city by residents,' said Guy Costa, the city's public works director. 'From what it looked like before, it's amazing what they've done.'
But after the neighbors began improving the park, they realized they might have a problem on their hands.
'We worried that maybe we had done our job too well and might attract attention,' said Paul Peffer, a financial adviser, who is teasingly called 'the mayor' by his neighbors for starting the project about eight years ago. 'You know, some developer might come along and think, 'Hey, I could build there.''"