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Grant to pay for trees, green infrastructure project in Harrison

July 24, 2018

Volunteers plant bioswales in Carnegie. A bioswale is expected to be built somewhere in Harrison by this time next year as part of a community greening assessment project undertaken by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. The same work is also planned for Clairton, funded by a grant from The Pittsburgh Foundation.

Some 40 trees and a “green infrastructure” project to combat stormwater runoff will be coming to Harrison over the next year.

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy will be undertaking the work there and in Clairton, paid for with a $250,000 grant from The Pittsburgh Foundation.

The grant was awarded in early June, said Jeff Bergman, director of community forestry with the conservancy. It’s being split in half between the two communities, with the same work undertaken in each.

“In Western Pennsylvania there’s a lot of communities that have negative impacts from excessive stormwater runoff and antiquated sewer systems,” Bergman said.

“The goal is to plant trees, involve the community and complete an effective and measurable green infrastructure project.”

To date, the conservancy has already completed such projects in Carnegie, Coraopolis and Homestead, Bergman said.

Bergman said Harrison was chosen because the conservancy has worked with the township on tree plantings before.

“The Harrison Township folks are really committed to improving their community,” he said. “It’s a really interesting community. It’s diverse. They have really dedicated residents. We can’t do these projects if the communities aren’t also dedicated to them. Harrison Township is very dedicated to this kind of work.”

Township commissioners have accepted the project, and Commissioner Chuck Dizard said they’re pleased by it.

“There will be interesting stuff once the program moves forward, especially the green infrastructure facility,” he said. “But, for now, the selection of Harrison Township is exciting for us.”

Under a tentative early schedule, Bergman said the conservancy will do an inventory of all the trees in public spaces in the township, along streets and in parks, in August and September and create a database. A model will show the benefits those trees currently provide, such as stormwater control.

About 40 trees will be planted. The first 18 will be planted in the fall, in October and November, near Golden Rams Stadium, with most along California Avenue, a map shows.

The rest of the trees will be planted in April.

“We will work with residents to identify locations for tree plantings,” Bergman said.

A green infrastructure facility is likely to take the form of a bioswale, which uses plants and rocks to capture stormwater. Its construction in May and June would cap the project.

“The intention is to intercept and retain stormwater during a storm event so less flows into the sewer system causing problems such as sewage overflows,” he said. “There’s funding to monitor the amount of rainwater or stormwater that’s managed. That in turn will help the municipality in determining the project is effective and they can demonstrate stormwater is being managed.”

They’re usually located next to a parking lot or a public building, such as a library, where there can also be an educational component, Bergman said.

“This is something you see on the surface. They’re usually attractive,” he said. “They’re easy to maintain and proven effective.”

A community meeting that will include an overview of the project’s goals, an update on the work completed, and an overview of green infrastructure locations and concept plans is tentatively planned for December. A second community meeting to present the green infrastructure facility’s design is expected in April.

“It’s an environmentally focused project but we heavily involve the community in it,” Bergman said. “That makes the project sustainable.”

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