This past weekend, the Parks Conservancy celebrated Earth Day in grand style: by getting really, really dirty and helping to restore Schenley Park. Many of our staff members participated as crew leaders or volunteers, and several of them share their perspective of the day below. (Don't miss the slideshow of photos at the bottom, courtesy of John Altdorfer!)
Marijke Hecht, Director of Education
Saturday's event was a huge success. The partnership with so many wonderful organizations not only brought in lots of volunteers, it made the process a lot of fun. I hope we can do something similar again next year.
Here are some good statistics for the day:
- 192 volunteers (despite the cool rainy weather)
- 19 trees planted
- 120 shrubs planted
- 5 rain barrels installed
- 1 rain garden planted
- 44 bags of trash removed—plus 1 metal barrel and 3 parking meters
- 10 bags of recyclables collected
- 2 buckets of glass shards collected
- 200 bags of garlic mustard removed
Also, thanks to the Pennsylvania Resources Council, this was a Zero Waste Pittsburgh event. All food, cups, and plates were composted and all recyclables were collected for recycling. We used no bottled water and produced minimal trash.
Mike Sexauer, Director of Marketing and Membership Development
Though it was my first large-scale volunteer event as a director of the Parks Conservancy, the planning began months ago in a familiar way—as many do—with recruiting sponsors.
Our corporate and media partners are naturally inundated with requests for money, materials, and exposure. Some concepts are difficult to "sell," such as those that are relatively invisible to the public or those executed on a small scale. This particular event was easy to explain, though the proximity of Earth Day and the dozens of events taking place that week probably made it difficult for some businesses to choose.
Thankfully, several came through for us in a big way and helped keep the "extra" in extravaganza. They include KDKA TV and WYEP 91.3 for creating fantastic recruiting public service announcements, Panera Bread for the boxes of bagel bites and enough coffee to last through lunch, Aramark and Whole Foods for filling the snack boxes, and Chipotle on Forbes for providing 150 of the largest burritos I’ve ever seen. Thanks for making the day a success!
Phil Gruszka, Director of Park Management and Maintenance
Our volunteer crew leader Karen Lukas and I finished up the rain garden and rain barrels at the Schenley Park Café (look for more about the rain garden on the blog later this week). We were fortunate to have an experienced landscaper, Josiah Leisher, take the lead on restoring the planting beds around the building where we had to dig in order to separate the downspouts from the combined sewer and lay new lines to the rain garden. He and two assistants were able to complete that work in 2.5 hours.
Karen had several parents with children planting and mulching the rain garden. The children were a big help early, then moved on to more fun things like playing tag near the work site. However, the parents were able to keep an eye on them and finish the project rather seamlessly. As time ended, most of the work was hauling debris to a transfer site for proper disposal.
I led the rain barrel team, and fortunately for me, one of the team members, Patty, had installed them before, which made interpreting the instructions much easier. Additionally, several frequent park users and unofficial stewards walked by while the barrels were being plumbed. One of the stewards, Gary, is a plumber and the much-needed expertise just walked in on us and finished the all important details like making certain that the pipes run downhill and not up, and all of the fittings were properly sealed and attached. Our team was on the right track and everything would probably have worked; however, with Gary’s expertise, it is guaranteed. After the weekend storm events, we now have 250 gallons of rain water available in the rain barrels, and that is only a fraction of the amount that entered the rain garden. Success is fortuitous.
Erin Copeland, Restoration Ecologist
I worked a lot with all of the crew leaders and they were spectacular! They gave of their time to get oriented to the sites beforehand and then also lead crews the day of. They were lovely to work with. We had crew leaders from SCA, Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest, Clean Water Action, the Parks Conservancy, and many of our Urban EcoStewards from every park, including Grandview Scenic Byway Park.
During the work day I worked with Marijke, Greg and our crew to install 120 native flowering shrubs along the golf course edge. The Bob O’Connor Golf Course, the Parks Conservancy, and the Department of Public Works are working together to remove the non-native and invasive Norway maple canopy, install a native and diverse forest canopy, and install a meadow and shrubland along the golf course edge at tee 11.
I can’t wait for the views that we will all have along that edge of the forest of redbuds, pagoda dogwoods, blueberries, chokeberries, and Carolina roses blooming during the spring and summer. Of course the other benefit is more water infiltration and species diversity within the Panther Hollow Watershed.
Adam Fedyski, SCA Green Cities Fellow
To call last Saturday an extravaganza would be fitting, but no single word can sum up the efforts and consequent success of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy’s big spring cleanup. Without the partners and sponsors, we could not even fathom hosting an event of this magnitude. Their shared vision of an ever improving Schenley Park is extremely important. However, the success of the day was largely attributed to the resilient volunteers that came out for the event. There were almost 200 people volunteering in the rain! That displays the impassioned dedication of people to help out in the parks.
Every single person who came out on Saturday walked away with a greater connection to Schenley Park and the surrounding area, whether they planted trees or shrubs, helped install the rain garden, or tackled the daunting tasks of removing garlic mustard and trash from the trail areas and roadsides. Each individual should take great pride in the huge difference that they helped to make in just a matter of a few hours on a Saturday morning. It helps shed light on the great potential of individuals working together to achieve something awesome. Thank you again to every person who helped us in any way on Saturday. I hope to see every single one of you out in the parks again!