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We are asking for your help. As of right now, we are still able to purchase and distribute small yard trees through our Citizen Tree Project, and we are encouraging people to sign up to plant a tree in their own yards where they can do so without risk of spreading or contracting coronavirus through the community.

COVID-19 has brought our region, our state, and our country to a standstill, but the natural world continues to move forward for better and for worse. We’ve seen changes like decreased air pollution in China, clearer water in Venice, and other marginal improvements to the human-environmental interface. But this virus has also brought social, and physical distancing necessary to slow the spread of disease. Unfortunately, it’s hard to take the necessary steps to improve certain aspects of our watershed from the confines of our home offices. This spring we had scheduled multiple tree care events including tree plantings. Other events like the stream sweep were also cancelled and we are facing a reality of several more months with little or no hands-on environmental action as a community. Still, it’s a great time to take environmental action independently.

Tree planting events will likely be pushed to the Fall, since summer is not a good time to plant large trees , however, we are uncertain about whether we’ll be able to double our planting capacity in the Fall to compensate for the lack of events this Spring. As mentioned before, the natural world isn’t slowing down. Our canopy is still aging and decreasing, and we can’t afford to lose time in reversing that trend. The 20-30 street trees we’ve been unable to plant this Spring could have provided a tenth of an acre of canopy coverage in ten years, and a quarter of an acre in twenty years. Marginal, but vitally important progress for our watershed urban forest.

We are working on recording a shortened version of our workshop and filming a planting “how to” video to train interested participants. Additionally, we are working on ways to distribute trees and offer planting support in the safest manner possible. Options include drop-offs similar to food delivery, or registration for a pick-up time at our office. We will also be rolling out additional guidance on actions you can take from your own homes to help us restore and protect the Nine Mile Run watershed urban forest and ecosystem in the coming weeks.

We recognize that this is not an easy time financially and are waiving the modest fee in favor of donations. If you can give, we appreciate your financial support, but most important is that you continue to help us achieve our goals of reversing canopy decline and moving towards canopy gains in the future. And if you don’t feel like you can plant a tree, why not check out our self-guided tree walk through Regent Square on your next socially-distanced walk.

Registrations can be completed here:  https://forms.gle/MuryhYuHr99QJqxJ8

Questions can be directed to: Lindsey-Rose Flowers () or Jan Raether ()

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In 2017 we learned that PennDOT was beginning to look at replacing the Interstate 376 bridge over Frick Park, Nine Mile Run, and Commercial Street. The bridge, part of a major transportation corridor in Pittsburgh, carries nearly 100,000 vehicles daily and has been in service for nearly 70 years. Since its construction, the arched bridge has been a backdrop of the restoration area and the stream. We anticipate that a construction project of this size will not only impact commuters but the stream and the park as well, with potential impacts on the environment and the aesthetics of the area.

In late 2019, PennDOT hosted the first of what will be several meetings on the outcomes of their preliminary planning work. This preliminary planning included a Historic Bridge Analysis, needs assessment, and rehabilitation feasibility study. The public meeting at the Frick Environmental Center was, unfortunately, poorly attended, given the impact on commuters and the potential impact on the park. Still, we encourage members, supporters, and park users to share their thoughts on the project with PennDOT via the survey link provided below.

In their public presentation, PennDOT proposed several options concerning design and construction implementation of the bridge project, with an emphasis on two constructions options: Staged or Slide-In. Staged construction would include alternating phases of construction and demolition which would result in no full closures of the highway. Alternatively, a slide-in construction method would see the majority of the new bridge built to the south of the existing bridge before a full closure would take place to demolish the existing bridge and slide the new bridge into place.

Example of “Slide-in”, or Accelerated Bridge Construction from a Garver animation

Details of the construction method can be seen in the slides provided by PennDOT at their autumn community meeting which can be found here.

The expected work footprint is unknown at this point in time, but based on renderings provided by PennDOT it appears that a staged construction method may require a smaller overall footprint potentially minimizing impacts to the stream and the park. We encourage people who are concerned about impacts and/or interested in the potential aesthetics of the new bridge to complete the PennDOT survey found here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WY2F5NV.

We believe that this new bridge project could reduce bridge runoff from entering the stream, and we support the project in any capacity that imposes the least potential harm to the stream and the park. As such, we encourage survey respondents to include a comment with a preference for the project with smallest physical footprint.


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Google Street View

When Google Street View was released just over a decade ago many of us likely took a peek at our homes, forgot about it, and have used it maybe a handful of times since. Today some might use it to confirm an address before punching it into their GPS, but it’s also an interesting and useful tool for our work in the watershed, particularly urban forestry. Over the last 10+ years, Google has re-photographed numerous streets, creating a photographic timeline. The timeline allows us to go back and see how current conditions compare with conditions from a decade ago.

Our Process

One of the interesting things we’ve been exploring is the growth of trees we planted or helped plant in the watershed, over the course of the last 15 years. With the timeline, we can go back to a series of dates and screen capture the view from that year. When we compile these individual images into animated GIFs it provides a moving timeline of that location. These GIFs not only show the difference between planting and today but also how the tree and surrounding area have evolved. Not only do the trees grow, but the amount of shade produced, or the number of cars parked nearby has changed as well, showing some of the benefits of trees. There’s nothing scientific about this process, and it’s something you can easily do at home.

Rowland Connector – Hybrid Elms (Planted 2005)

Rowland Connector 2005 – 2017

Wallace Ave. – Red Maple (Planted 2008)

Wallace St. 2007 – 2017

Biddle Ave. – Japanese Zelkova (Planted 2011)

Biddle 2007 – 2017

Center St. – American Elm (Planted 2011)

Urban Forestry

Center Street 2011-2016

Also useful in the stream – Nine Mile Run  from Commercial Ave (2007-2016)

Nine Mile Run

Nine Mile Run (2007-2016)

And one of our Green Stormwater Infrastructure sites – Oakwood-Batavia (2012-2017)

Oakwood Batavia (2012-2017)

Urban Forestry Takeaway

These timelines show just how quickly trees can begin to provide significant benefits, as long as they are getting some care and attention. Planting a tree now isn’t just an investment for future generations, it’s an investment that will begin to show benefits in the near future.


If you’re interested in planting a tree in your yard, contact us about the Citizen Tree Project.

If you’d like to plant a street tree, contact Urban Forestry Coordinator, Jan Raether, about TreeVitalize grants.

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