Our walking tour series continued this past Saturday, June 28th 2014, in Etna, PA. The borough of Etna, “… is a small bustling community covering one square mile along the banks of the Allegheny River, and is bordered on three sides by Millvale, Shaler Township, and Sharpsburg. Centrally located, Etna is just 10 minutes … from downtown Pittsburgh … Once a mill town, over the past twenty years, Etna has re-emerged as a residential community with a highly diversified business base. Within its borders are over 160 businesses ranging from good-sized industrial firms to smaller, family-owned retail and consumer outlets”(etnaborough.org).
We were fortunate to be joined by the borough manager, Mary Ellen Ramage and the Chairman, Peter Ramage. Both lifelong residents of Etna, they were knowledge about the town and passionate about its future.
The borough currently has a Green Plan in place that will utilize green infrastructure throughout the community. Situated along the Allegheny River, and its own Little Pine Creek, Etna is faced with flooding problems. Both residents and the borough have had to deal with flooding in their buildings. The Green Plan has already spurred a few green infrastructure projects in town.
Our first stop on the tour was the streetscape that Etna is constructing on Butler Street, their main business district. With a grant from Growing Greener, Etna is transforming a one block area into an efficient stormwater project. Trees, decorative grates and underground storage make up the streetscape and promote infiltration into the ground. Decorative grates allow the water to flow through the sidewalk into the storage tanks. The tanks will retain the runoff from between 2 and 5 year 1 hour storms from the surrounding rooftops of businesses. The local businesses have rerouted their downspouts so they flow into the system. Tree pits add aesthetic value and will absorb rainwater.
Next, we stopped at a few gardens along Butler Street. The Garden Club of Etna is very active and maintains beautiful gardens throughout the borough. While not technically green infrastructure projects, the gardens in Etna are impressive and make a great impact on the aesthetics of the town.
Etna is also home to a vibrant community garden. Members of the Presbyterian Church transformed an abandoned lot into the garden. Their goal was to produce food for the two local food banks. Today, the community garden is an impressive one that donates an abundant amount of food to the food banks each season.
From there, our tour stopped at a parking lot that has also transformed into a green infrastructure project. Situated at the bottom of a steep street, the parking lot had a lot of runoff issues. A unique rain garden, the only one with its design in Western PA, was installed. The design exceeded expectations of the borough and its engineer, absorbing all of the water from a major storm in 24 hours.
Throughout the tour, we saw many rain barrels in action. The borough purchased several for their own use and they have a rain barrel program in place for residents to purchase one and receive a discount on their water bill.
Our final stop on the tour was the rain garden at the community pool in Etna. In 2013, Etna hosted a rain garden workshop where attendees learned about rain gardens and witnessed the creation of one. Sara Madden, Design Manager of Stormworks, joined us on the tour to explain the process of designing and installing the rain garden. Sara was part of the workshop day that led to the creation of this rain garden. Today that rain garden is 180 square feet and takes in water from the roof of the pool building.
The borough of Etna has made great strides in fixing their stormwater issues. Making green infrastructure a priority, they have brought additional community benefits to the area. Etna is not done with improvements to the community. Their Green Plan will extend to other parts of the borough and will continue to bring about benefits. We are excited to witness Etna’s continued success.