Today was a great day for fans of Schenley Park, as the Parks Conservancy received a grant of $1 million from the Richard King Mellon Foundation. Half the grant will cover the development of a watershed management plan for the Panther Hollow Watershed, and the other half will fund ongoing management and maintenance. This represents a huge step forward in the restoration of the watershed that we've been undertaking over the past ten years, and certainly in the life of the watershed as a whole. (You can read a great history of Panther Hollow Lake's ups and downs in this morning's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)
We're often asked why we don't just dredge Panther Hollow Lake to get rid of the pollutants and make it usable again. The answer, as in most questions regarding the watershed, goes back to stormwater. If problems with the lake's tributary streams aren't solved first, and the streams don't slow down water and infiltrate it along the way, overflows and silting in the lake will just keep creating the same problem. We've made a lot of progress over the past ten years with things like redirecting the Phipps Run stream channel to handle a larger volume of water, creating catch basins to slow down water moving toward the lake, planting more trees in the canopy gaps in the woods (which slows down erosion and soaks up more water), and installing a rain garden at the Schenley Park Café. But because the lake is the final stop for so much of the water coming through the 780-acre watershed (and because it has such recreational potential), we need to employ some innovative management techniques to keep it clean in the long term.
We'll be posting an RFQ on Thursday for firms interested in designing the restoration plan for the watershed. Watch this webpage for the RFQ and supporting documentation, including several research studies conducted over the past few years about things like macroinvertebrate counts and soil quality.
Panther Hollow Presentation
9/8/10 UPDATE: Our "What's Going On in Panther Hollow?" presentation at Botany Hall on Wednesday, September 15 is completely full! We'll take good notes and hopefully have them available for you to read shortly after the lecture. If you missed it, the Parks Conservancy staff will talk about specific restoration efforts, and we'll also hear from Michele Adams, Principal Engineer and founder of Meliora Environmental Design in Kimberton, PA. Adams, a leader in environmentally sensitive site design, will share examples of innovative engineering solutions to stormwater problems in the watershed.
Meanwhile, along the trails...
Work is in full swing this week on the Hollow Run Trail in Schenley Park. The three signature Works Progress Administration bridges are being repaired and invasive plants are being cleared. Soon this trail, which has been impassable for years, will be returned to park users. It's awesome to think that someone walking from Panther Hollow Lake toward the east end of Schenley Park a few years ago would have encountered a field full of tires and heavy equipment, followed by a trail covered in fallen trees and stones cracked from bridges. Now in a few short weeks, that walk will pass by the Panther Hollow meadow (now in its fourth season and thriving) onto a streamside trail.
The transformations happening in our parks are a great thing, and it's support from funders like the Richard King Mellon Foundation--and from you!--that make every single project possible.