Quaker Valley Recreation Association Legacy Fields Project In the fall of 2009, Quaker Valley Recreation Association (QVRA) began its Legacy Fields at Bouchard Family Park project in Bell Acres with the worthy goal of providing much-needed athletic fields for local schools and community groups.
The contractor for the project began by removing all vegetation from the 38-acre site, setting off a series of silt-laden storm water run-off events that culminated in a flood of muddy water closing Camp Meeting Road in April of 2010. Off-site springs also sent huge, unplanned-for volumes of storm water onto the muddy acres.
To further complicate matters, during the construction of the largest catch pond, the bedrock at its base had been fractured, resulting in the drainage of all the sediment-laden water within a few hours instead of the 4-10-day retention period usually required for the sediment to settle as the pond slowly drains.
Unfortunately for Little Sewickley Creek, this pond drained right into a major tributary of the creek in a deep ravine on the other side of Camp Meeting Road, sending heavily silted storm water all the way to the main body of the creek and down to the Ohio River.
An important part of the LSCWA mission is the monitoring of Little Sewickley Creek and its watershed, and then advocating for the protection of the creek and the environmentally sensitive areas within the watershed. Sediment pollution discharge to a tributary of Little Sewickley Creek, a designated Special Protection, High Quality water of the Commonwealth, was a clear violation of this project’s Erosion and Sediment Control Plan as well as the Clean Streams Law.
In early May of 2010, the Watershed Association reported the silt contamination of the creek to the Allegheny County Conservation District (ACCD), and the first inspection of the site by their Water Quality Specialist took place that next week.
Thus began a five-year saga, involving close to 40 site inspections by ACCD and the engineers, water quality specialists, and compliance agents of the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). These site visits were attended by QVRA Board members, as well as Bell Acres borough officials, council members, and engineers. Since Quaker Valley School District (QVSD) is the owner of the property, school district officials and representatives of their engineering firm were also in attendance.
During this time, LSCWA continued to monitor the site after each rain event, reporting observations to QVRA, ACCD, and the PA DEP. In 2010, a liner was installed in the largest catch pond, but in spite of attempts to get the entire site re-vegetated, ongoing corrections to the three catch ponds, and repairs made by the Allegheny County Department of Public Works to the drain pipes under Camp Meeting Road, the site continued to discharge uncontrolled amounts of sediment-laden storm water during and after rain events.
In the fall of 2012, the PA DEP issued a Compliance Order to both QVRA and to QVSD, as owner of the property, for ongoing violations of the Clean Streams Law and Chapter 102 of the DEP’s regulations, regarding erosion and sediment control regulations.
With QVSD taking over the management of the project and with a change in QVRA leadership, major efforts were made to correct the violations and get the entire site seeded and mulched, which allowed the Erosion and Sediment Control stage of the project to be completed.
Due to the unanticipated volumes of water on the site after rain events, the originally-approved Post-Construction Stormwater Management (PCSM) Plan – the next stage of the project – was now inadequate, and a new Plan to include bioretention stormwater controls, such as rain gardens, tree planting, and vegetated bioswales, had to be designed and approved by the DEP.
Representatives of LSCWA and Fern Hollow met several times with QVRA board members to discuss how best to move the project forward. QVRA sought and received input from LSCWA both in terms of a board resolution stating our support of the PCSM stage of the project and a letter of support to be included in the QVRA grant request to Allegheny County CITF for funds to complete the rain gardens.
By the fall of 2014, QVRA had received a $150,000 CITF grant, the site had been stabilized with vegetation, stormwater run-off was clearer, and the athletic fields were in active use.
By the spring of 2015, all three rain gardens had been planted with a DEP-approved native seed mix of species that can handle both moist and dry conditions. Also in the spring, a tree-planting project was organized by Fern Hollow Nature Center with the Western PA Conservancy at the QVRA site, and 240 trees were planted by high school and elementary students.
It is our strong belief that with the three rain gardens, the newly-planted trees, and the healthy vegetation of the site, the quantity of stormwater and sediment coming off the site will continue to decrease, and the LSC tributary impacted by the years of sediment discharge will now be able to return to a healthy condition.
The Legacy Fields project, even with its many ups and downs, is an example of how different organizations can work together to achieve their separate goals. Two new athletic fields have been built and are in active use by local teams – and LSC – an equally important community resource for the education and recreation of our young people – has been protected and preserved.