Healthy Watersheds, Greener Streets

August 11, 2015 by Lauryn Stalter

Imagine for a moment that you're a doctor. But instead of treating people, you're charged with healing a watershed.

The meadow at Bartlett Street in full bloom.Like the human body, watersheds are complete systems; one part of the system influences another. If you get a fever, it's usually the result of a chain reaction inside resulting from any number of ailments. Likewise, too much runoff, pollution, and chemicals like pesticides cause a ripple effect throughout a watershed.

Keeping watershed ecosystems healthy requires work and persistence. Over the past decade, the Parks Conservancy, along with partners Allegheny County Sanitary Authority, Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, and the City of Pittsburgh, have been nursing back to health an ailing Panther Hollow Watershed. Read more about the history of this project here.

Some symptoms are visible (sediment build-up in Panther Hollow Lake), while others are below the surface (combined sewer overflow, or CSO events after major rains).

Two of the last remaining above-ground streams in Pittsburgh flow in Schenley Park.So, what's the prognosis? With a holistic approach (a comprehensive restoration plan), it's looking better and better. The recently installed meadow at Bartlett Street and infiltration berms at the Bob O'Connor Golf Course will help absorb rainwater, naturally letting it replenish the water table.

The next treatment to better the health of the watershed involves Schenley Drive.

Making up a large portion of the impervious surface of the park, Schenley Drive acts as a sort of autobahn for rainwater, channeling gushing gallons into the sewer system every year. Estimates for the Schenley Drive Green Street project that 70,000 bathtubs of water would be diverted from the sewer system every year. Plans for this road are just starting to take shape, with the second public meeting having been held on July 29th. Thanks to the feedback of so many park users, bikers, walkers, neighbors, and community members, this project will be shaped not only to better the health of the park, but to better serve as a "complete street," accommodating all park and road users.

Ecological Restoration, Park Activities, Panther Hollow and Four Mile Run Watersheds, Schenley Park, Stormwater and Green Infrastructure