10 Feb Fern Hollow Bridge collapse raises concern for restored Nine Mile Run
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Local ecologists are monitoring the possible negative effects of the Fern Hollow Bridge collapse on the surrounding ecosystem.
UpstreamPgh, previously known as the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association, is an organization concerned with the preservation of Nine Mile Run, a stream that runs through Pittsburgh’s East End underground except for the above-ground Fern Hollow creek, a tributary of Nine Mile Run that flowed directly under the Fern Hollow Bridge.
Mike Hiller, executive director of UpstreamPgh, shared the group’s ecological concerns with the collapse, ongoing cleanup and the eventual rebuilding of the bridge.
“The collapse deposited debris and materials in the stream,” he said.
The cleanup process is creating ecological problems as well. As of Feb. 6, a makeshift road added to make vehicle access easier from Forbes Avenue down into the Fern Hollow ravine was another reason for UpstreamPgh to be concerned.
In order to build the road, crews had to cut down trees.“The machinery is disturbing the landscape,” Mr. Hiller said.
UpstreamPgh is watching the plans for a new bridge with caution. Will it disturb the ecosystem under the bridge?
The construction of a new bridge will have “a larger footprint than actual constructed pieces,” Mr. Hiller said.
Right now, UpstreamPgh has a group of environmental specialists who are concerned with monitoring the health of the ecosystem in and surrounding Nine Mile Run, Mr. Hiller said. The staff is testing water quality upstream and downstream from the site of the bridge collapse.
Their report on the state of the Nine Mile Run ecosystem will be released soon, said Mr. Hiller. The organization is currently building a page on their website with information on watershed conditions.
Once they have collected sufficient data, Mr. Hiller said that UpstreamPgh hopes to reach out to authorities with accurate knowledge on what to ask for regarding environmental safeguards regarding cleanup and bridge-building .
“We will continue to monitor the site, but will wait to make sure we’re making informed decisions,” Mr. Hiller said.
According to UpstreamPgh’s website, Nine Mile Run is “is home to the largest urban stream restoration in the United States.”
Mike Hiller called the area a “sacred space.”
“The Nine Mile Run aquatic ecosystem restoration project…is a sought-after example of how to restore streams in an urban area,” he said.
Nine Mile Run is unique as an ecosystem in a developed urban setting because there are “not a lot of them left,” Mr. Hiller said.
With Frick Park’s proximation to the rest of Pittsburgh, there is an important connection between city-dwellers and nature, he said.
“Nine Mile Run allows people to experience the natural environment, interact with the ecosystem and is spectacular for habitats,” Mr. Hiller said.
In fact, UpstreamPgh was recently excited by the arrival of a beaver on Nine Mile Run.
“[The beaver] speaks really well to the health of the quality of the ecosystem,” Mr. Hiller said.