Today’s blog post comes from GTECH – a nonprofit organization in Pittsburgh that cultivates the unrealized potential of people and places to improve the economic, social, and environmental health of our communities. NMRWA and GTECH, along with several other nonprofit organizations, formed a partnership that shares a CFO. This post was written by Sara Innamorato, Marketing and Communications Manager at GTECH.
A community garden is a wonderful idea for a vacant lot. The benefits outside of fresh produce, became very real to Lisa Freeman after founding the Manchester Growing Together Community Garden in 2011. Just a few blocks from her home in Pittsburgh’s Northside, the garden has had a lasting impact not only on her, but the surrounding community as well.
GARDENS ARE A TOOL FOR CRIME PREVENTION
Lisa had a hard time ignoring the illegal activities happening on the corner near her garden. She would walk past young men selling drugs while hers arms were full of compost and tools. Instead of overlooking their behavior, she began to ask them for their help. Soon those that were engaged in illicit activities became garden volunteers.
” ELEMENTS THAT WE ASSUME AS BAD BECAME PART OF THE COMMUNITY — PART OF THE GARDEN. IT HAS A REDEMPTIVE VALUE. THEY WERE PULLED INTO THIS COMMUNITY” LISA FREEMAN
Her observations aren’t new. According to a study performed in Philadelphia in 2000, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society maintained and greened 14,000 of Philly’s 54,000. At the end of a ten-year period, neighborhoods sporting reclaimed vacant lots showed a statistically significant decrease in shootings and other violent activity.
YOUTH EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES EXTEND BEYOND HEALTHY EATING
Gardens near school-aged children are a great learning tool. Not only do they teach children about healthy eating, ecological stewardship and plant maintenance, but also they bolster math and history skills.
In the summer of 2014, Lisa and her husband, Wallace Sapp, who runs the Math Doctors program at Manchester Pittsburgh Public School PreK – 8 as a volunteer, created a summer program called Math + Mud to address social and educational gaps facing the school. Eighty-three percent of this Manchester school’ s population is below the poverty line and 27% of the third graders were below “basic” math skills assessment. This summer supplemental program gave 3rd graders the opportunity to learn math and “play in the dirt, while building important social skills and healthy eating habits.
GARDENS JUST AREN’T FOR THE GROWING SEASON
The garden has become more than just a food producing area, it also serves as a community gathering space year-round. Last year Lisa, her husband and fellow neighbors hosted a Light Up Night community party.
In fact, Lisa is currently raising funds for her neighborhoods annual Light Up Night amongst other needs for her garden. Watch more of Lisa’s story and donate to her crowdfunding campaign.
On Saturday November 8, NMRWA held their final tree planting of 2014. Eleven volunteers, together with NMRWA staff, worked to plant six trees. Four of those trees were planted along Columbia Avenue in Swissvale. The other two were planted near the corner of Union Street and Lacrosse Street. Among the six trees were hedge maple, katsura, hybrid elm and redbud species. In the past, Columbia Avenue was lined with many large London Plane trees. Many residents looked forward to this planting as a way to start reestablishing the tree canopy along Columbia.
Annual planting and stewardship of new and existing trees is essential to sustaining a constant tree canopy in an area. Many tree experts abide by a 1:1 ratio of tree removals to tree replacement as a sustainable policy for maintaining canopy cover. A 2:1 ratio of removals to replacements is a policy adopted to increase canopy cover. Once all of the trees were installed, volunteers reconvened to enjoy hot soup and good conversation. Thank you to all the volunteers that helped make this event great. Another thank you to Swissvale councilperson Julie Grose for allowing NMRWA staff to set up materials and snacks in her front yard.
It’s time for another edition of Meet the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association Staff!
You may remember we did another post about our staff called Meet the Newest NMRWA Staff Members! There, you got to know our GreenLinks Coordinator, Jared and Stormw0rks’ Regional Stormwater Strategist, Mo.
Since that blog post Brittany, the Managing Director of Stormworks, has joined us! Brittany answered 5 questions so you could get to know her a bit better.
We also asked Mike, our Director of Policy and Outreach 5 questions. Mike has worked at NMRWA since July 2013. Stay tuned for more blog posts in this series to get to know all NMRWA staff members!
Learn more about Brittany and Mike below!
Brittany joined the Stormworks team earlier this month. Brittany brings over five years of experience in sales, marketing, and operations from various start-ups to her new role as StormWorks Managing Director. She has an undergraduate degree in Business Administration from Carnegie Mellon University, with a focus in Marketing. In her free time, she enjoys playing tennis, baking, reading, skiing, and walking her dog.
1. Can you speak any other languages?
Brittany does not speak another language although she did take Latin in high school!
2. If you could go anywhere on vacation, where would it be?
France because of all of the baked goods and the scenery. Brittany has already traveled to London.
3. What are your hobbies?
Brittany loves to read and play sports, especially tennis, golf and skiing. She also enjoys doing crafts as well as baking and cooking.
4. Draw your favorite animal.
Check out Brittany’s awesome drawing of a wolf below!
5. What is your favorite tree?
A White Oak. Brittany and her husband planted a white oak tree during their wedding ceremony!
Mike Joined NMRWA in July 2013 as the Director of Policy and Outreach. He has an undergraduate degree in Urban Studies and a Master of Art degree in Geography with a Graduate Certificate in GIS & Spatial Analysis, both from the University at Albany. Prior to moving to Pittsburgh, Mike was the GIS Coordinator for the University at Albany, where he developed a campus-wide system of infrastructure. He also has experience as an urban planning consultant, working to create more sustainable regions and places. He is responsible for coordinating watershed communities and organizations to develop and implement green infrastructure projects. In his free time, Mike likes to explore new areas of Pittsburgh, hang out with his dog, and find fresh food at a farmer’s market.
1. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A basketball or football player.
2. What is the last thing that you ate?
At the time of this interview, the last thing Mike had ate was a breakfast burrito with a side of grapes. This was thanks to an office wide breakfast burrito party that morning!
3. What is your most memorable NMRWA moment?
The first time Mike planted a tree in the watershed stood out to him. Mike has continued to plant many trees throughout the watershed during GreenLinks’ tree planting events as well as cared for many others during the tree care events.
4. What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food.
5. If you were a Superhero, what powers would you want to have?
To be able to fly.
“Nine out of 10 scientists believe that humans are causing global climate change, surveys suggest. But only about one out of two science-education facilities are discussing it at all”.
Two recent Pittsburgh Post-Gazette articles explored the presence of climate change lessons in museums. Some people are concerned that nationally, museums are not addressing climate change with their audiences. One expert estimates only about half of facilities around the country are addressing the issue “one way or another”. Some institutions explain that facts in this category are controversial and not conducive to creating science exhibits which often take years to develop. Others argue that the sponsors and funders of some museums are barriers to speaking candidly about climate change.
Everyone seems to agree that museums are able to reach large populations. Many see it as a responsibility of theirs to communicate about climate change.
At the end of the article, “Discussion of climate change is scarce at some Pittsburgh science-education institutions”, the Climate and Urban Systems Partnership (CUSP) is mentioned. For several years NMRWA has been part of this effort to reach more people with lessons on climate change. CUSP is a national project, funded by the National Science Foundation, with groups working in Philadelphia, New York, Pittsburgh and Washington, DC. Each city works to create a model of climate change education that can be used in cities around the country. Focusing on community issues, the group relates climate change back to their audiences. Many Pittsburgh area organizations, with a focus on the environment, come together to form CUSP.
NMRWA has been participating in discussions and activities of CUSP. This year, CUSP created a fun and exciting plan to engage kids and adults in learning about climate change. CUSP’s leaders assembled an impressive Climate Change Playground where anyone could learn how everything from daily activities to city planning can affect our climate.
You can read more about the Climate Change Playground in our blog post about ALCOSAN’s Open House where NMRWA staff participated in the playground.
CUSP focuses on creating activities that are fun and engaging for kids and adults. All of the aspects of the playground are hands-on and interactive, inviting kids to take an active role in their learning. Adults often become engaged through their kids. In every CUSP activity, participants learn what they can do to help combat the effects of climate change. NMRWA focuses on the green infrastructure activity where participants see how a rain storm floods a city and how green infrastructure reduces the amount of rain a city has to endure. We are able to deliver the message that green infrastructure brings many benefits with it and it can reduce the amount of water coming into Nine Mile Run. We explain that with climate change, we can expected more severe weather events like large rain storms. Finally, we ensure participants understand that green infrastructure is accessible to them whether they purchase it for their home or advocate for its use in their communities.
NMRWA is excited to be part of CUSP and share what everyone can do to protect and conserve Nine Mile Run. CUSP collects data and information at each playground they assemble. They hope to continue to improve on their activities based on this information. All of the activities are available for partner organizations and educators to use and will be shared with the CUSP partner cities, expanding the reach of the climate change lessons.
What do you think? Should museums offer more educational opportunities about climate change?
Check out some pictures below of the Climate Change Playground at the ALCOSAN Open House.
People are often surprised to learn that yes, there are fish living in Nine Mile Run and in fact… there are rather a LOT of them!
Led by NMRWA Monitoring Committee members Brady Porter and Michael Koryak, fish sampling is performed on an annual basis, typically in the fall. Since the stream restoration was completed in 2006, their data have shown marked improvement in the number and diversity of fish in the stream.
Immediately post-restoration, the entire stream was electro-fished and only 116 fish comprising seven different species were found. Today, it’s impossible to sample the entire length of the stream in one day due to the number of fish and time it would take to process them all!
For example, last Wednesday, NMRWA Monitoring Committee members and other volunteers sampled for fish in lower Nine Mile Run. Beginning at the mouth of the stream near Duck Hollow in the morning, and traveling upstream to finish just below the pedestrian bridge in the late afternoon, we caught nearly 2,300 fish comprising 17 different species! This is the second highest species count ever found in this section of the stream – 21 species were found in 2011.
Additionally, we found two new species that had never been collected from Nine Mile Run before: Gizzard shad and Silverjaw minnows. The addition of these two species brings the total species count of fish collected from this stretch of Nine Mile Run since 1999 to 30!
This week, barring inclement weather, we will finish our fish sampling for the year when we sample a section of the stream in the main part of Frick Park.
As always, thanks to Brady and Mike and all the volunteers who help make this important sampling effort happen!
Want to learn more about our stream monitoring work? Head on over to our monitoring page for more information and nifty, interactive data maps!