The following post is a guest blog entry from Eric Martin, a Coro Fellow who interned with Nine Mile Run for the last eight weeks.
My name is Eric Martin and I am currently working at Nine Mile Run as part of my nine month long experience as a Coro Fellow. What is the Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs? The Coro Fellowship is a leadership development program in Pittsburgh for young adults who want to pursue a career in public affairs. The Fellowship is focused on training individuals who, as citizens and leaders, will all their lives act constructively and competently to build up and improve their communities and society as a whole.
I am originally from Fairmont, WV and graduated in 2010 from West Virginia University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering. In my time since graduating, I have been fortunate enough to have been able to work in short, but connected, experiences that have allowed me to live in other parts of the country and the world while gaining a wide range of skills. Before joining Nine Mile Run for my eight week placement, I was placed at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, where I was tasked with consulting and recommending improvements to their Operations Department.
At Nine Mile Run, I have been fortunate enough to be thrown right in the mix! On my second day, I found myself in the heart of the Nine Mile Run stream helping Maranda and Abbey with our monthly stream sampling. It is unbelievable to think that that was during the second week of January and it is now almost March, and my time here is almost over. In between, I have helped with marketing and project initiatives with Mike, accounting with Lindsey-Rose, learned how to build rain barrels with Paul, attended Clean Rivers Campaign meetings with Brenda, and worked a lot with Jared and the StormWorks crew! Phew!
I want to thank everyone here for being so welcoming and nice! I have felt right at home and a part of the team from the moment I started working here. My hope is that I have helped here in some way and will continue helping to advance the mission of Nine Mile Run in my final weeks here as well as moving forward in my career!
On a chilly Saturday morning in Swissvale, NMR staff and volunteers set out to plant a dozen trees in and around the Universal Academy of Pittsburgh. After enjoying hot coffee generously provided by Coffee Tree Roasters in Squirrel Hill, NMRWA’s very own tree expert, Jared Manzo, demonstrated the intricate process of preparing and planting young trees. Once trained, the volunteers and staff broke into teams to plant on the Academy grounds and on Hampton and Columbia Avenues.
The teams worked cooperatively to snugly plant each tree individually. This involved cutting twine off of the bundled branches, positioning the trees in the pits, and staking for support. Planting a tree is hard and diligent work but the volunteers rose to the task enthusiastically. By noon we were able to plant 12 trees which included Eastern white pine, tulip poplar, hophornbeam, and hawthorn.
Once the work was done and the teams returned to the Academy to enjoy a tasty lunch donated by Al’s Fish and Chicken and Veltre’s Pizza. The conversations continued as everyone basked in their hard work. The principal of the Academy, Ibrahim Yousef, and Al Aqra, Academy board member and owner of Al’s, expressed deep gratitude for the hard work from the volunteers. These 12 trees at the Academy and surrounding streets will be enjoyed by the generations of the school and neighborhood to come.
UPDATE (7/14/16) – We received the following message from Al Aqra, board member of the Universal Academy of Pittsburgh:
Nine Mile Run Watershed Association is leaving a great impact in the East End of Pittsburgh. NMRWA has been planting hundreds of trees in the watershed area where it had changed the landscape. On the 14th of November NMRWA and volunteers came to Universal Academy of Pittsburgh and planted 6 trees which will help with water preservation, beautify the school grounds, provide shade in the hot summer days, and add a colorful background to our school.
A tree planting event is such an educational opportunity to learn about Nine Mile Run, different types of trees, and a quick tutorial on how to plant and care for trees. Trees are very important part of our environment, landscape, and ecosystem, that’s why, we should plant more and care for existing ones.
On behalf on the Universal Academy of Pittsburgh’s community, parents, staff, students, and board of directors I would like to thank Nine Mile Run Watershed Association for their great work for the community and the environment. We look forward to working with Nine Mile Run Watershed Association on future possibilities such as Rain Gardens, Rainwater Management, and Educational opportunities for our students.
Board of Directors
Universal Academy of Pittsburgh
Bright and early on a crisp Sunday morning, Jared Manzo, NMRWA’s GreenLinks Coordinator, guided participants on a tree identification walk through the lower section of Nine Mile Run. With rubber boots required, the first half of the walk traveled in or along the stream itself where no official trail exists.
Several species of trees were highlighted along the stream such as American sycamore, black willow, honey locust, silver maple, boxelder, common hackberry, and hardy catalpa. In a small patch of changing sugar maple, Jared explained what triggers dormancy in trees, the chemicals that produce fall color, and why leaves change color at all with the onset of dormancy.
Before moving back up to the Nine Mile Run Trail, Maranda Nemeth, NMRWA’s Restoration Stewardship Coordinator, took a moment to discuss a project along the run to allow fish to move further up stream. We returned to our starting point on Commercial Avenue by jumping onto the Nine Mile Run Trail. Some interesting species noted along the trail were staghorn sumac, black birch, sassafras, black gum, and bitternut hickory.
Overall, twenty-one tree species were identified. Tree identification focused on the most recognizable features of a given species to help distinguish it in the future. Leaf arrangement, simple leaves versus compound leaves, and the definition of a twig were discussed as well. Hot apple cider and muffins were great snacks given the chillier than usual October morning.
If you are interested in tree identification, look out for walks in 2016 with NMRWA or Tree Pittsburgh! You can get started yourself by getting a guide such as Tree Finder: A Manual for Identification of Trees by Their Leaves or downloading Virginia Tech Tree ID app for your iPhone or Android device.
Volunteers and Nine Mile Run staff set out this past Saturday morning to weed and mulch over two dozen trees along the Port Authority’s Busway Linear Park along Edgewood Avenue in Swissvale. Armed with gloves, shovels, and wheelbarrows, the group got right to work improving the tree pits after a brief overview from NMR staff member Jared Manzo.
The weather was chilly and traffic along the road was a bit intimidating but the volunteers were not deterred! Volunteers assiduously removed weeds that compete for soil nutrients, and spread mulch at an even depth making sure to pull a few inches back any mulch from around the trunks of the tree.
By the end of the event, we had tended 24 of the 28 maple trees. NMRWA staff finished the final four trees the following week. Thank you to Veltre’s Pizza in Swissvale and Coffee Tree Roasters in Squirrel Hill for the donated refreshments for volunteers.
NMRWA is extending their effort to benefit these trees by undertaking a tree pit expansion project. One of the greatest challenges for street trees is a lack of adequate soil volume. With Port Authority of Allegheny County’s permission, we are removing a strip of concrete to connect existing tree pits in pairs. Thirteen sites have been identified. Six will be completed in the remainder of 2015 with the other seven completed in 2016. The purpose of the project is to create more area for water infiltration and rooting space. Hopefully, this work will equate to larger, healthier, and longer lived trees.
If you are interested in helping trees in Swissvale, we will be planting trees this coming Saturday, November 14th, 2015 along Columbia Avenue, Delaware Avenue, and the Universal Academy of Pittsburgh. This will be our last tree event of the year so please come out and help us finish strong!
On Saturday, September 26th, Nine Mile Run staff held a work day with five Operation Better Block Jr. Green Corps students to cleanup three vacant lots on Oakwood & Batavia Streets in Homewood as part of the Rosedale Runoff Reduction Project (RRRP). The OBB students and staff (Jerome Jackson and Demi Kolke) helped NMR staff remove 33 tires and 12 bags of trash from the lots. The weeds were cut down with brush cutters and taken to Agrecycle to be processed into compost or mulch.
This intersection will be the location of the first RRRP construction project scheduled to start in October to install green stormwater infrastructure (GSI). The purpose for cleaning up the lots was to prevent litter from washing into the nearby storm drains whens it rains and eventually into Nine Mile Run. Hopefully this will lessen the load of future stream sweeps!
The Oakwood-Batavia project is scheduled to begin construction in later October. It will be the first GSI facility to be constructed that will extend into the roadway in the City of Pittsburgh. Nine Mile Run with the help of Ethos Collaborative has been working with the City DPW and PWSA to finalize all design features to meet all codes and ordinances.
Nine Mile Run is also hosting a stream tour for residents of Homewood and East Hills on Thursday, October 15th. For more information about the RRRP, please visit: rosedalerain.com