Study pushes green initiatives for Carnegie

Focus on four

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For the past several months Carnegie has been undergoing a "green scan."

A team from the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has been touring the town, snapping photographs, studying census data, talking with community officials and poring over maps for the purpose of finding ways to make Carnegie a greener place to live.

The study has suggested planting trees, installing stormwater management devices such as bioswales, creating curb cuts to channel stormwater into the bioswales, planting rain gardens and installing permeable paving that would enable rainwater to flow through the pavement and seep into the ground.

Judy Wagner, senior director of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy Garden and Green Space Program, led the study, which was presented Oct. 9 to borough officials and residents.

Other team members are Mike Knoop, community planner and land conservation specialist; Art DeMeo, director of green space services; Mark Hockley, conservancy forester and arborist; Allison Plummer, data assistant; and Gavin Deming, community specialist.

Mr. Knoop said adding green elements to a community would not only make it look better, but also yield economic, health, recreation, and stormwater management benefits.

"There are a lot of good opportunities for greening in Carnegie," Mr. Knoop said.

The team focused on four projects that had a strong feasibility of being completed quickly at relatively low cost, he said.

The first was additional greening of the "gateway" to the Andrew Carnegie Free Library from the business district. This would encompass gardens to be planted on the hillside owned by the borough on Broadway Avenue near the intersection with East Main Street.

Outdoor reading areas for children were suggested for the grounds around the library, as well as upgrades to the library parking lot to enhance stormwater management by adding green infrastructure, such as bioswales and rain gardens that use plants to absorb stormwater in shallow basins dug into the ground where the rainwater is channeled and collected.

"We want to work with the library to put some of these recommendations into place," Mr. Knoop said.

Parking Lot 10 on East Main Street across from the old post office, which is occupied by the Carnegie Coffee Company and the Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy, is another area that drew the green scan team's attention.

"Parking Lot 10 presents a great opportunity for greening strategies," Mr. Knoop said.

In a previous parking lot project in Pittsburgh, the Conservancy was able to add these types of green features to the lot design without sacrificing parking spaces.

Ms. Wagner said Alcosan, the authority that manages the Allegheny County sewage system, is looking for demonstration projects to absorb stormwater that implement green infrastructure.

Green infrastructure encompasses everything from green roofs to permeable paving and rain gardens as ways to naturally absorb and retain stormwater.

"The lot is in the center of the community and beautification of the space would have many benefits," Ms. Wagner said.

Carnegie council president Richard D'Loss said the borough is committed to revamping the parking lot in the spring and is in the process of having the borough engineer draw up plans and work with the green scan team on its suggestions.

Ms. Wagner said her group also could help the borough identify additional funding sources for the project from foundations and state and county programs.

Another part of town identified by the team that could benefit from a greening strategy is the vacant lot on West Main Street, owned by the Carnegie Community Development Corporation, between the Carnegie Historical Society and Off the Wall Theater.

"It needs a little loving care. It's important because it's right there on Main Street," Ms. Wagner said. The team recommended some quick, temporary fixes that would enhance the lot.

Joanne Letcher, executive director of the development corporation, said the property is for sale, so anything added would have to be temporary. Ms. Wagner said some improvements could be made such as adding a wooden rail fence and planting flowers.

Carnegie Mayor Jack Kobistek said he would look into teaming up with GTECH, an environmental group in Pittsburgh that turns vacant lots into gardens, about the possibility of planting a sunflower garden in the lot.

There is a small sunflower garden planted by the Carnegie Arts Initiative along the side of the Historical Society Building. That garden uses rainwater from the roof of the Historical Society to water the garden and reduce stormwater runoff into Chartiers Creek.

The water recovery system and garden was funded by a grant from the Pennsylvania American Water Company in 2012 as part of their watershed improvement program.

Additional recommendations were adding flower gardens and trees along major access roads into Carnegie, planting 25 trees at the 7th Avenue Park and adding a community food garden on a vacant lot owned by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church at the intersection of Second and Third Street.

"The community food garden would be across from a farm stand sponsored by the church, so it would be a good tie-in, Mr. Knoop said.

"We will now finish up writing the report and go into the implementation phase," Ms. Wagner said.

The study was funded by a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy also is working with Coraopolis and Homestead to make their towns greener.

Bob Podurgiel, freelance writer:

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