If you’ve taken a walk in lower Frick Park recently, you’ve undoubtedly noticed the unusual amount of trash and debris scattered around the flood plain and dangling from trees and shrubs, as well as some significant erosion of the walking trails. I’ve been working with the Watershed Association for more than 11 years, and I can honestly say conditions are the worst I’ve ever seen in and around the restored stream, with the possible exception of June 18, 2009, the day after a particularly intense storm system rolled through. This time there is not just a single storm system to blame. Instead, what you are seeing is a graphic manifestation of how climate change is impacting our region.
For years the accepted average amount of annual rainfall in Pittsburgh was 37.7 inches – and if you ask Google, that is still what you will find. But in 2017 we had 40.6 inches, and last year the total was an extraordinary 57.8 inches. This year, the rain gauge at the bottom of Nine Mile Run had already recorded 37.1 inches by July 31st. So we will almost certainly exceed 2017’s total this year, and may come close to another record year. Not only are the totals higher, but the way the rain arrives has changed as well. Only a few years ago, a summer thunderstorm “tropical downpour’ would last for just a few minutes, and then it would gradually taper off to a more moderate rate, or even stop altogether. Now we frequently experience intense downpours that last for 30 or 40 minutes, or more.
What’s going on here? Well, it’s pretty simple. Warmer air holds more water vapor, and eventually that will find its way to earth as snow, sleet, rain, or hail. And as anyone who hasn’t been living in a cave knows by now, our temperatures are getting warmer, both here in Pennsylvania and globally. Worldwide, the five warmest years on record were the past five years — and the 20 warmest occurred over the past 22. The warmest year on record for the earth’s oceans was 2018. Every time that a weather reporter uses words like “record-breaking”, or “unprecedented” to describe a weather event or disaster, that should be followed by an explanation that these are exactly the kinds of events that climate scientists have predicted for decades and that we should expect as the earth warms.
As we explain at all of our stream sweeps, since much of the watershed has separated storm sewers, heavy rains carry any trash on the streets into the storm sewers and directly into Nine Mile Run, during major rain events, the stream spreads out across the flood plain, which is exactly what was intended in the re-design of the stream when it was restored between 2003 and 2006. But this year’s storms have carried more trash, and deposited it over a wider area, than ever before. While it isn’t safe to be in the middle of the valley during one of these prolonged intense storms, you can find out later how high the water got by just looking at where the plastic bags and other debris are hanging from the trees.
One of our core missions here at the Watershed Association is to steward the NMR restoration area. In addition to our annual Spring and Fall Stream Sweeps, this year we will be scheduling some additional clean-ups to deal with the “unprecedented” amount of trash we are facing. Follow us on social media for announcements of when these will be happening if you’d like to help out. We’ll also keep working on better stormwater management solutions in the upper watershed communities to try to reduce the overall burden of flooding that the stream now faces on a regular basis. If you already have a rain barrel or rain garden, or a street tree in front of your house, THANK YOU!! If not, and you are interested in getting involved to help solve the problem, give us a call.
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
Last Monday, January 19th, we held a special Stream Sweep in Frick Park. We were joined by students from Chatham University who, as part of a service day on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, chose to clean up Nine Mile Run. Each year, Chatham hosts a day of service, honoring MLK, where their staff and students can give their time to the community. Those at the university could choose one of 4 activities to participate in that day. About 20 people chose to help us. Monday morning, braving the cold, they set out to collect trash and debris from the stream. Starting at the soccer field, we split into two groups to cover more ground. The stream was definitely different than it is when we host our Spring and Fall Stream Sweeps. Without any foliage on the trees, the trash was abundant and apparent. Thanks to colder recent temperatures in Pittsburgh, parts of the ground around the Stream were still frozen and some of the trash was stuck in the ground! A few participants attempted to remove a sock that was buried and frozen in the ground without any luck.
The students from Chatham worked hard and collected enough trash to fill 30 bags! They were able to warm up afterward with some hot coffee and hot chocolate. As always, the group found some interesting things while cleaning up the stream. One participant found a rug while another found a small hub cap with a few other small car parts.
We greatly appreciate Chatham reaching out to us to work together on the Stream Sweep. We want to thank all of the students and staff members for working hard on a chilly day.
Be sure to stay tuned for all of our upcoming events to join us in the watershed sometime soon!
Check out pictures below of Chatham’s Stream Sweep!
Last Sunday, October 5th, NMRWA hosted our Fall Stream Sweep! We changed things up a bit this year with our Stream Sweeps. In order to give more people the opportunity to join us for this event, we hosted two Stream Sweeps, one in the Spring on Saturday and one in the Fall on Sunday. We had great turn out for both and we really appreciate everyone who joined us to clean up the stream!
The Fall Stream Sweep started out a bit chilly but that didn’t scare off our volunteers! About 20 people joined us Sunday morning in Frick Park. After an introduction to NMRWA and the event, we filled up on some bagels and coffee and were on our way. Our volunteers spread out throughout the stream and began collecting as much trash as they could. With the recent rain storms, a lot of trash and flowed downstream from all over the watershed. Participants found a car tire, a skateboard, a phone charger and many aluminum cans. You never know what you will find during a Stream Sweep!
After a few hours of collecting, our volunteers produced about 40 bags of trash! That is impressive as, just a few hours earlier, we were trying to adjust to the colder temperatures in Pittsburgh. We always greatly appreciate everyone who joins us for our Stream Sweeps. It is an important task to remove trash that could harm the stream. In the process, we make the park and the stream a more enjoyable place for everyone.
A special thanks to Bruegger’s Bagels in Squirrel Hill and Coffee Tree Roasters in Squirrel Hill for their generous donations to our Fall Stream Sweep.
Many of our partner organizations and neighborhoods throughout the watershed are busy with upcoming events! We will start to feature these events with a bi-montly Community Events feature on this blog. Check out what is happening around the watershed below!
HISTORICAL MARKER DEDICATION CEREMONY HONORS FRANK CONRAD 10/17
WILKINSBURG, PA, October 2, 2014 – In 1919, Frank Conrad, an electrical engineer and radio broadcasting pioneer, initiated a series of early radio broadcasts from his Wilkinsburg garage. Through his early radio work, Conrad became responsible for founding KDKA, the first licensed broadcast station in the world. In addition to his radio broadcasting, Conrad worked as the Assistant Chief Engineer for the Westinghouse Electric Corporation in Pittsburgh. Conrad received the prestigious Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Edison Medal in 1930 and was awarded more than 200 patents throughout his life. He died in 1941 at the age of 67.
On Friday, October 17, 2014, beginning at 2 p.m. at Community Life (301 Meade St.), together with the National Museum of Broadcasting (NMB), the WCDC will honor the life and achievements of Frank Conrad by re-dedicating a Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission marker at the corner of South Trenton Avenue and Penn Avenue—one block east of the former location of Conrad’s garage. The dedication will also celebrate the 95th anniversary of Conrad’s first broadcast out of his Wilkinsburg garage—October 17, 1919.
The Halloween Party for the residents of Wilkinsburg is FRIDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2014
The Halloween Parade will start at 5 pm to 5:30 pm with all the ghouls, ghosts and goblins returning to the Borough Library Meeting Room on the 3rd floor to continue the festivities until the bewitching hour of 8 pm
Join the Regent Square Civic Association, in partnership with the Wilkins School Community Center, and make your own scarecrow to put on your porch or to donate to display along S. Braddock Avenue’s business district.
When: Saturday, October 11th as part of the ECOFEST 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
Where: The Wilkins School Community Center
Join Tree Pittsburgh at their book launch party! Tree Pittsburgh’s children’s book, If We Were To Plant A Tree, is here and they are celebrating with a party and everyone’s invited.
Thursday, October 23
Carnegie Lecture Hall
4400 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
They’ll have refreshments and children’s activities, as well as an art exhibit of student-created work. You’ll also get the chance to meet author Dar and listen to special guest Vanessa German read If We Were to Plant A Tree. Stick around after the reading to plant a tree with Daniel the Tiger!
For more information or to RSVP for this free event, visit http://bit.ly/treepghbooklaunch.
Tree ID Walk
Saturday, October 11
Meeting point to be determined before the event
Whoops! Sorry for going radio silent the past three months or so… Summer is always a busy time here at NMRWA, but that’s no excuse. Now that Fall is on the way, we’re ready to get back on a regular blogging schedule!
In the coming months, we’ll be posting about NMRWA events and workdays, information about native plants and animals, lists of other upcoming watershed community events, and more, so stay tuned.
Here are a couple snapshots to help recap our summer…