Today’s post comes from the Green Building Alliance (GBA). GBA is the regional chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, and works to inspire the creation of healthy, high-performance places for everyone by providing leadership that connects knowledge, transformative ideas, and collaborative action. GBA has an Emerging Professionals committee that enables like-minded sustainability professionals to be a force for progress within their communities by providing a forum for networking and education.
One of GBA’s Emerging Professionals is Christi Saunders – a virtual construction engineer for Mascaro Construction. She wrote today’s post about her experience volunteering in Frick Park as an Urban EcoSteward. Thank you to Christi & GBA for this guest blog post!
I live in Regent Square and have spent much time in Frick Park, either running, walking the dog, or playing tennis. I have always enjoyed my time in Frick Park because it feels like I’ve have been transported out of the city to the Middle of Nowhere, PA. Its calm, quiet, and beautiful.
Through living in Regent Square and my involvement with the Emerging Professionals at Green Building Alliance, I learned about the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association. NMRWA is involved in the cleanup and maintenance of the Nine Mile Run watershed, which includes Frick Park and parts of Wilkinsburg, Pittsburgh, Swissvale, and Edgewood. In all of the time I had spent in Frick Park, I had never considered how the park was maintained. I guess I just assumed that the city and the Parks Conservancy maintained the grounds, which in fact they do – they cut grass address fallen trees, service the restroom facilities, maintain the trails, etc. Other major maintenance activities in the park like collecting trash, removing invasive species, and planting new species, however, is actually accomplished through a volunteer program called Urban EcoStewards, which is managed by NMRWA and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.
Since I love Frick Park so much, I was eager to do my part to help maintain its great quality so others can enjoy it as much as I do. I brought the idea of joining the EcoStewards program to GBA’s Emerging Professionals group and we all agreed to take on the project. We have since been assigned a project site in Frick Park that is near the Edgewood/Swissvale on-ramp to the parkway. We started maintaining the site last fall mostly by removing English Ivy, an invasive species that tends to grow everywhere.
We returned to the project this spring, but we wanted to do more than just remove English Ivy. So Tom Cosgro and I attended a Spring Invasive Species training class that was held by NMRWA and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. We learned new species to identify and whether or not they need to be removed from the site. I also talked with NMRWA about what native species we could plant at our site. Two weeks before our spring cleanup day, I headed out and purchased a few bushes and several smaller flowering milkweed plants.
On our spring cleanup day this year, we began by removing several different types of invasive species including Garlic Mustard and Goutweed. Everyone noticed right away the lack of English Ivy, which made us feel accomplished since we knew that our last project had actually made an impact.
After an hour or so, the sky started to look darker so we decided to wrap it up by planting the natives that I had brought. As we began to dig holes for the bushes, the sky opened up and it poured down rain. We debated making a break for the cars but there was no time. We all jumped into the trees and found as much shelter as we could. The pouring rain only lasted about 10-15 minutes but it was enough that we all ended up soaked.
After the rain, we went on to plant a Button Bush, a Spice Bush, and a few Milkweed plants, which attract numerous species of butterflies. After that, we cleaned up and headed back towards Regent Square. We all enjoyed an ice cold beer and laughed about being so wet. Hopefully at the next EcoStewards day we will see our native plants flourishing along the trail in Frick Park. And if you haven’t explored this wonderful park yet, you have to check it out!
Today’s blog post comes from the Clean Rivers Campaign – an education & advocacy program designed to raise awareness of the stormwater runoff and sewage overflow issues in Allegheny County. NMRWA is one of the CRC’s six founding organizations.
Nine Mile Run Watershed Walking Tour
The Clean Rivers Campaign has partnered with Venture Outdoors to create a series of walking tours called the Neighborhood Eco Walking Tour series. Each tour is an opportunity for anyone to learn more about green infrastructure and how it can benefit a community.
Last Saturday, we held our second tour in the Nine Mile Run watershed. As a partner organization in the Clean Rivers Campaign, the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association (NMRWA) has been working to stop water pollution and solve multiple community needs by investing in green solutions. After some brief introductions at the NMRWA office, the tour took time to learn about Stormworks’ new rain container, the Hydra. You can read more about the slim and innovative design of the Hydra, here. Holding 116 gallons of water, the Hydra will catch rain water before it can enter our sewer system and eliminate runoff on owners’ properties.
The tour then moved a few feet from the office to a section of permeable pavement at the corner of Trenton Ave and Biddle Ave in Wilkinsburg. NMRWA installed this permeable pavement several years ago to reduce the runoff into Trenton Ave and the rest of the watershed. Made from recycled rubber tires, the several feet of pavement doesn’t interrupt pedestrian or residential traffic. The durability of the material was evident in comparison to the surrounding cracked and broken pieces of concrete.
Next, the tour stepped across the street to Biddle’s Escape coffee shop. There, Stormworks installed a stormwater planter last summer. Similar to a rain garden, a stormwater planter contains plants that effectively absorb rain water. The plants are housed in a container that rests on the ground. This project was great for Biddle’s Escape as they do not have land where a rain garden could have been installed. The building’s downspout empties into the planter to quench the plants and divert the water from running off into the street. Joe, the owner of Biddle’s Escape, joined the tour to talk about the shop and the different events they offer. Stormworks was able to work with Joe to complete the rain planter and add another stormwater solution to the community.
The tour moved on to visit a few street trees in Wilkinsburg. NMRWA’s Greenlinks program seeks to improve the community greenspaces and urban forest of the Nine Mile Run watershed. Since its inception, GreenLinks has added nearly 900 trees to the watershed, which are actively managing thousands of gallons of stormwater runoff each year. Tour participants were able to stop at a few trees to learn how they manage stormwater as well as the threats that they often face. In the US, many trees have been affected by the Emerald Ash Borer, a beetle that kills Ash trees. NMRWA has been working hard to mitigate the effects of this problem by looking for alternative tree species that will thrive.
Participants travelled just a few blocks to learn about two rain gardens in the area. A watershed resident, Janis, joined the tour to talk about the rain garden that was installed at her home. Several years ago, Janis purchased her home and had to remove a large tree from her yard. The roots of the tree and the shape of her yard created runoff problems for Janis. She contacted Stormworks and they were able to install a rain garden that wraps around the side of her home. Solving the runoff problems and adding aesthetic appeal to her yard (at one-third the price of conventional landscaping!) the rain garden has proved itself beneficial. With minimal maintenance, Janis is able to enjoy her garden fully.
Finally, the tour stopped at a rain garden located in front of the Biddle Building, on Braddock Ave, next to the tennis courts. Also installed by Stormworks, the garden has absorbed rain runoff on the park’s campus for a number of years. Here, tour participants also learned about NMRWA’s monitoring work. To ensure the organization’s past work to restore Nine Mile Run’s water quality, they have efforts in place to monitor the quality of the water on a monthly basis. Overall, they have seen the quality continue to improve. Just a few years ago, only a few fish could be found in the waters of Nine Mile Run. Today, thousands of fish, from many different species, can be found thriving in the water. This is a tremendously good sign that the water quality has been restored in the run.
The tour’s 20 participants were able to learn a lot from many different types of green infrastructure projects that have now been in place for an extended period of time. The balance of residential and commercial properties on the tour allowed participants to image what might be possible in their homes and communities.
As you may know, this tour is part of a series. Running through September, a tour will be offered on the last Saturday of every month, each in a different area of the Pittsburgh region. Next up, we will visit Etna to learn about their green infrastructure projects. You can find out more or register by visiting: http://cleanriverscampaign.org/get-involved/upcoming-events/. Please contact Sarah at with any questions.