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. NMRWA was formed in 2001 out of a community based project that organized the largest US urban stream restoration completed in 2006 by the Army Corps of Engineers. The watershed, covering 6.5 miles, is located in Pittsburgh’s East End. Home to many exciting initiatives, NMRWA complements an amazing physical transformation with a variety of innovative urban ecology projects designed to directly involve the community in helping to improve the health of the watershed.
Those projects include Stormworks, Greenlinks and monitoring work. A division of NMRWA, Stormworks provides simple stormwater management solutions to area residents. From rain containers to rain gardens, Stormworks created and installed several of the projects that were part of our tour.
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 at NMRWA’s blog, 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 was founded in 2003 and 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 and continue to benefit the watershed.
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 Janis’ 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 email@example.com with any questions.