New Tree Pits
Our work in the Rosedale Runoff Reduction Project (RRRP) area continues as we aim to complete the first phase of the project by the end of 2016. A major component of the project is the planting of 40 street trees in stormwater management tree pits.
This month one of our contractors, Penn Landscape & Cement Work, completed the first four of these tree pits on Rosedale Street. The process included several months of design revisions and meetings with the City of Pittsburgh Department of Public Works. The tree pits, planted with Black Gum trees, are designed to be lower than the street grade so they will capture street runoff through curb cuts for ground infiltration.
As part of the Operation Better Block Cluster Planning Process, residents voiced their interest in adding green design elements to Rosedale Street. These tree pits are a first step.
Vacant Lot Cleanups
Also, in early April, Nine Mile Run staff worked with two volunteer groups to clean-up three vacant lots on the corner of Rosedale and Hill Streets, next to the Port Authority’s Wilkinsburg Busway parking lot. With the help of 33 volunteers, over 100 trash bags were removed along with 15 tires!
The groups included students from a nature writing graduate class at Chatham University on April 4, who removed over 60 bags of trash and nine tires. On April 12, international students from Bosnia and Herzegovina, visiting through Magee-Women’s International Youth Leadership Program finished cleaning up the lots, collecting more than 40 bags of trash and eight tires. The groups also toured the restoration area of the NMR stream in lower Frick Park before the clean-up to get a sense of where the trash would end up if it had not been cleaned up in the upper watershed.
Stay tuned for more projects in the Rosedale area!
Last Saturday Nine Mile Run staff welcome a group of teen volunteers with Point Breeze New Church School to remove trash from Nine Mile Run, the stream in lower Frick Park. The group of staff, teachers, and students were taking part in the Youth Group Weekend. This group was unique as the teens traveled far from home, hailing from Oak Arbor, MI, Kempton, PA, Toronto, Canada, and Kitchener, Ontario. One of the things their church teaches is the importance of service to your neighbors, so participating in community service projects is a critical aspect of their learning.
Starting out on a chilly morning, the students gathered around to receive instructions, vests and tools from Nine Mile staff. The 47 teens were then divided into two groups with staff to start picking up debris at different points in the stream.
The students were energetic and excited to be there, talking about what they might find and who could collect the most trash. Once in the stream, small teams broke out and eagerly scanned for and picked up anything they could snag with their trash grabber sticks. Moving and filling bags quickly, the volunteers managed to fill 29 bags of trash in two hours. Among their interesting finds were some articles of clothing, a couple forks, and an expired credit card.
After the trash bags were tied off the students, group leaders, and Nine Mile Run staff reconvened to enjoy hot chocolate, granola bars, and take some group photos.
The work the youth group performed was vital to the health of Nine Mile Run. Stream sweeps help address the watershed’s core problems of urban waste flooding the stream with every storm event. By removing trash, the volunteers helped remove pollution in the stream, maintain a healthy and clean ecosystem for recreation and wildlife habitat, and reduce amount of trash that could have ultimately washed into the Gulf of Mexico.
Volunteer with Nine Mile Run!
If you are interested in volunteering with Nine Mile Run Watershed Association we have two events coming up on November 7th and 14th to plant and take care of trees in Swissvale. We hope to see you there! Sign up links are below.
Tree Care in Swissvale: Saturday, November 7th, 9:00am-12:00pm
Tree Planting in Swissvale: Saturday, November 14th, 9:30am-12:00pm
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
As you may have seen in our Spring newsletter, since 2013 we have been working with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy (PPC) on a grant received from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program. One of the goals of our partnership on this grant was to develop a culture of stewardship for the Nine Mile Run watershed by engaging a wide range of ages in citizen science and stewardship activities. One way we approached this was to implement PPC’s Mission Ground Truth (MGT) program at Wilkinsburg Middle School.
MGT is an interdisciplinary ecosystem assessment program mapped to PA state academic standards for 7th and 8th grade students that includes in-class discovery activities as well as a field trip to Frick Park. During the field trip, students get to be ecologists for the day, and have the opportunity to use the same tools and sampling methods that scientists use to evaluate the health of forest and stream ecosystems.
Recently, NMRWA staff worked for two days in Frick Park with Environmental Educators from PPC to help lead the Wilkinsburg Middle School students through the field day programming.
We began each morning by discussing goals for the day, then broke into small groups. During the morning session, the groups each explored a section of the Fern Hollow stream while discussing questions such as “how can ecologists detect and measure pollution in a stream?” and “what benefits do humans and animals get from streams?” Then the students recorded data on physical and chemical water quality characteristics, such as temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, and velocity. Next, we explored the benthic macroinvertebrate populations by carefully overturning rocks and collecting samples using a net. To wrap up, we would discuss how everything tied together by asking questions like “based on the data we collected, is the stream healthy or unhealthy?“and “how does the quality of Fern Hollow affect the health of Nine Mile Run?”
After a break for lunch, the students got to venture into the forest for a deeper look at the complex forest ecology present in Frick Park. We identified different tree and plant species and talked about the various ecosystem services that forests provide to animals, streams, and people. We asked questions like “why is biodiversity important in forests?” and “how is the health of this forest related to the health of Fern Hollow and Nine Mile Run?” Then the students used forestry tools to collect data on the location, size, and type of trees, and we looked for evidence of Asian long-horned beetles. To wrap up, we asked questions similar to the morning session, like “is this section of the forest healthy or unhealthy?”
Over the course of the two days, we had a wonderful & enriching experience working with the students and with the PPC staff. Thank you to Mike, Taiji, Steve, and Chelsea for their expertise & enthusiasm in implementing the MGT programming!
Earlier this month NMRWA staff travelled to Scottdale, PA for a staff development day. Scottdale is home to the Jacobs Creek Watershed Association. We met Annie Quinn, the Executive Director of the watershed association. The association is young but has accomplished quite a lot. Annie showed us around town to the various projects Jacobs Creek has created and led.
First, we visited the downtown Scottdale area where Jacobs Creek has created several green infrastructure projects. In downtown, every pedestrian crosswalk is made from pervious pavement. This allows water to flow through the ground and is also more visible to drivers. Along several of the streets, rain gardens line the sidewalks. Curb cuts allow the water to flow into the rain garden and any excess water can flow out.
Additional pervious pavement and rain gardens are located throughout the downtown area. One particular rain garden is located next to a government building which was experiencing severe flooding during rain events. Jacobs Creek worked to situate the rain garden at the correct spot to mitigate the water. The building sits at the bottom of a parking lot which was causing the rainwater to flow directly to the building. In addition to the rain garden, Jacobs Creek created levels of the parking lot. At three points in the lot, street trees and pervious pavement were installed. This allows rainwater to infiltrate in three different locations. Any rainwater that is not captured at these points will continue to flow into the rain garden at the end of the lot. Thanks to all of these measures, the government building no longer experiences flooding.
Jacobs Creek continued with green infrastructure projects at the local middle school. With a large campus, the school was also experiencing problems from stormwater runoff. The watershed association worked with the school to create a large rain garden on the school grounds. The garden has served as green infrastructure but also as a unique teaching tool for teachers.
Our last stop was at a mobile home park in town. This area had also suffered from flooding. In particular, one woman was receiving runoff from the entire park into her house. Jacobs Creek created and planned several green infrastructure projects to absorb the stormwater on this property. During our trip, it was still under construction but a system of drains and pervious pavement will soon address stormwater in this area.
The number of projects in Scottdale was quite impressive. We learned a lot from the process and ideas of Jacobs Creek. We are excited for the future projects and success. We are grateful to Annie for showing us around and teaching us so much. We are excited to show her around the Nine Mile Run Watershed soon!