Earth Day was technically Tuesday, April 22nd, but NMRWA staff members were busy this past weekend with several Earth Day events happening throughout Pittsburgh…
Clean Rivers Campaign’s Earth Day 2014 Walking Tour
Millvale, PA has made great strides in incorporating green infrastructure into the borough. Located along the Allegheny River, Millvale is susceptible to flooding, particularly from Girty’s Run which flows through downtown. They suffered from a massive flood in 2004 which destroyed and damaged many homes and buildings.
Tired of sewage backing up in their basements and floods damaging their infrastructure, Millvale turned to green infrastructure to absorb the rainwater before it hits the sewer system.
The borough’s rain barrels, rain gardens, urban farm, street trees and bioswales all help prevent flooding in town. The tour started at the Millvale Library, with Councilman Brian Wolovich explaining how their green efforts came about from community interest. From solar panels on the roof to rain barrels and a rain garden in the backyard, the library is the first for Millvale and is also extremely sustainable.
Other tour stops included a large urban farm, the Millvale community gardens, and a large rain garden. The tour ended with delicious pastries in town and some participants walked up to Mt. Alvernia where Sister Donna spoke about their bioswales. For more pictures, visit the Clean Rivers Campaign Facebook page!
This was the first tour in a series of five, each in a different neighborhood. The series will continue in the Nine Mile Run watershed in late May. To learn more and to register for the tour, visit: http://cleanriverscampaign.org/get-involved/upcoming-events/
Tree Care & Comcast Cares Day at Dickson School
Other NMRWA staff joined Comcast employees for a volunteer day at Dickson School in Swissvale. Over 30 Comcast employees joined students and parents of students from Dickson School to care for trees and a community garden on the school’s campus. As part of the Comcast Cares day, the attendees weeded and mulched trees, painted picnic tables, and weeded the community garden. NMRWA staff was on hand with tools and knowledge on how to properly care for the trees that were at the school.
The staff members then traveled to Washington and Noble Streets in Swissvale where they cared for street trees. Along with the borough and about six volunteers, staff members were able to care for trees throughout the downtown Swissvale area.
Mt. Lebanon Earth Day 2014
Stormworks staff & NMRWA Board Member Matt Wholey attended the Mt. Lebanon Earth Day on Saturday in Main Park. The event was a great success with live music, lots of great vendors and about 200 people in attendance. Even a Tesla was on display!
You may remember that Stormworks recently unveiled its new rain barrel – the StormWorks Hydra. Attendees were very interested in this innovative design, which you can read more about here. Staff also handed out packets filled with seeds from native rain garden plants!
As you can see, the weekend was a busy and productive one. Thanks to everyone who attended or helped out with these events this past weekend! We always enjoy seeing you out in the community and look forward to seeing you in the watershed soon.
We are pleased to announce the winner of our ‘name the new rain container’ contest – congratulations to Clif McGill!
Clif is an avid gardener, photographer, and a watershed resident that has been involved with Nine Mile Run and StormWorks for many years. He was up against some tough competition and it was a very difficult decision to make, but ultimately, we thought the Hydra was the best fit for our new container.
See some of Clif’s photos here!
Why did we choose Hydra?
Hydra is a genus of small, simple, fresh-water animals that possess radial symmetry. They can be found in most unpolluted rivers, streams and bodies of water in temperate and tropical regions.
Our mission is to reduce the amount of stormwater runoff entering our rivers and streams to create healthy habitats for small creatures, just like the hydra. When the smallest of organisms are thriving, our rivers and streams are on the path to becoming healthy ecosystems. We thought it was the perfect name for a container designed to help keep our rivers and streams free of pollution and promote a healthy, sustainable environment.
More info about the StormWorks Hydra
We’ve been working with rain barrels for a little over 8 years, field testing new designs, experimenting with new accessories, listening to clients’ feedback, and conducting research. During this time, we’ve been trying to understand and perfect how rain barrels are designed, perceived, sited, and installed.
We learned that it is time for an affordable rain collection system designed to fit with the edges, corners, and flat surfaces of a house, so the new StormWorks Hydra has a slim, modern design that can fit in narrow spaces between houses or shared walkways, behind shrubs, or neatly up against or in a tight area of your house to blend in with your landscape.
Manufactured in Erie, Pa with recycled UV-Stabilized polyethylene, our new container has a capacity of 116 gallons to handle any size roof. It has multiple spigot and overflow openings, a removable mosquito-proof filter basket, and will be available in multiple colors to make it one of the most user-friendly and aesthetically-appealing rain harvesting containers on the market.
Coming to a downspout near you in mid-May!
StormWorks is a social enterprise created to support the mission of the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association (NMRWA) by implementing responsible stormwater management techniques throughout the Nine Mile Run watershed and beyond its boundaries. StormWorks aims to further the work of NMRWA by meeting stormwater service needs at two key levels: a suite of stormwater management and mitigation services to the greater Pittsburgh area, and consultant services at regional levels. StormWorks specializes in providing various products and services, ranging from the installation of rain barrels and cisterns, the design and installation of rain gardens and permeable pavement, complete landscape design, and stormwater property consultations.
A recap of the UES Spring Invasives Workshop
This past Sunday, April 6, 2014, nearly forty enthusiastic volunteers attended the Spring Invasives Workshop in Lower Frick Park offered by NMRWA and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. It was a beautiful, sunny day, perfect for Jake Baechle, Volunteer Coordinator for the Parks Conservancy, and Paul Yanulavich, Urban EcoSteward Coordinator and Arborist for NMRWA, to talk about the Urban EcoSteward program and the importance of invasive plant removal and its connection to biodiversity.
For example, did you know that many plants from the nursery that people use in their gardens are specifically bred to be pest-free? Unfortunately, many of these plants find their way into Pittsburgh’s parks, where they have an unfair advantage over native plants.
While these invasive, pest-free plants are problematic for numerous reasons, one big one is that they affect the reproduction and survival of butterflies and moths. Butterflies and moths are not only unable to eat these plants, but they also are unable to lay their eggs on them, since they will ultimately need to be eaten by the young caterpillars.
One example of note is the monarch butterfly. Monarch butterflies’ main food source are native milkweed plants in the US & Mexico. Milkweed is the only plant Monarchs will lay their eggs on, which unfortunately is vanishing at a rapid rate, particularly in the Great Plains states along the Monarch butterfly’s migration route, due to increased use of herbicides. The effects on Monarch populations are alarming – at their peak in the 1990’s, Monarch butterflies occupied 45 acres of forest in the Mexican mountains; this past year they covered only 1.65 acres!
This lack of food and reproductive space for Monarchs as well as numerous other butterfly and moth species in turn affects bird populations. Adult birds can eat the berries of invasive plants, but their babies can only eat the soft butterfly and moth larvae usually found on the native plants these invasives are replacing.
Not all is gloom and doom, however. As participants at Sunday’s workshop learned, we can slow the rate of extinction and boost biodiversity and the food web by planting native plants, like milkweed, in our own backyards (and in the parks), and by removing the invasives that are taking their place.
Although not many plants (native or invasive) were coming up quite yet because of the late arrival of Spring, the group did manage to find plenty of emerging goutweed, garlic mustard, and mugwort plants to remove, and, as always, plenty of vines to cut away from our beautiful, native trees.
Thanks to all the Urban EcoStewards and other volunteers who helped to make the day a success, and to Jake Baechle and Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Naturalist Mike Cornell for their knowledge, leadership, and insight.