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Wingfield Pines property has been used for variety of things

| Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

The October program meeting for the Bridgeville Area Historical Society featured a presentation by Allegheny Land Trust Stewardship Director Emilie Cooper Rzotkiewicz on the Wingfield Pines Conservation Area.

Founded in 1993, the Allegheny Land Trust is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to serve as the lead land trust conserving and stewarding lands that support the scenic, recreational and environmental well-being of communities in Allegheny County and its environs.

The Wingfield Pines Conservation Area is located on the Chartiers Creek floodplain between Bridgeville and Mayview. The Land Trust acquired 80 acres there in 2001, using funds from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and several philanthropic foundations. The site has a varied history. The original warrant for this property was assigned to Alexander Fowler in 1788 and named “Wingfield.”

Attempts to farm the bottom land were thwarted by frequent flooding; agriculturally it never rose above the category of mediocre. In the middle of the 20th century, Pittsburgh Seam coal, just a few feet below the surface, was recovered by strip mining. The mining practices of that era consisted of removing topsoil from a long narrow strip, piling it on both sides, and then removing the coal. The area excavated soon filled up with ground water.

This process produced a series of long, narrow ponds separated by low ridges of overburden. In the 1940s, Blue Ponds, the site that is now called Wingfield Pines, was a wonderland of nature for those of us growing up in our neighborhood – a great place to hike, and fish and enjoy the wildlife there.

A special part of these adventures was a trip across “the swinging bridge.” It consisted of two wire rope cables stretched between towers on piers on both sides of Chartiers Creek, with short transverse planks serving as the deck and additional cables as handrails. It was quite flexible; a trip across it was like something in an amusement park.

In 1968 a group of entrepreneurs acquired this property, built an 18-hole golf course and swimming pool, and operated the Wingfield Pines Golf and Swim Club until 1983. In 1991, the Upper St. Clair Swim Club installed a pool and bath house of the site; it was closed in 1997 because it was unprofitable. After its closing, the site was essentially abandoned until the Allegheny Land Trust acquired it in 2001. By then the biggest problem with the site was a significant flow of acid mine drainage from the flooded Montour No. 4 mine.

This problem was resolved by the installation of a passive remediation system conceived by Environmental Engineer Dr. Robert Hedin. About 1,800 gallons per minute of mine drainage is pumped by groundwater pressure into a discharge pipe with 150 openings along its 400 feet of length. As the water spouts out of the pipe the ferrous iron in it is oxidized into ferrous oxide, and deposited into a collection basin.

Overflow from the basin enters one of four quadrants of a 400 feet diameter circular pond, then passes through each of the other three quadrants. Iron oxide settles out in each quadrant; by the time the water leaves the final quadrant it is clear. It then passes through a constructed wetland before being discharged into Chartiers Creek. It takes 40 hours for the water to pass through the system. About 43 tons of iron oxide are removed each year by this system. Equally impressive is the fact that the system requires no energy, relying strictly on gravity.

The wetland is an outstanding ecological laboratory, being the home to many species of animals, birds, and fish, as well the classic Western Pennsylvania wetland plants. A boardwalk leads through the wetland, providing birders, botanists, and amateur nature lovers an opportunity to inspect it firsthand. One of the speaker's favorite stories dealt with their struggle to compete with a family of beavers that was determined to dam a branch of the wetland.

The next historical society program meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 26, in the Chartiers Room of the Bridgeville Volunteer Fire Department. This meeting will be the annual “show and tell” event, where members of the audience are encouraged to bring in items of historical significance and talk about them. Visitors are welcome.

Reminder — the next program in the “Bridgeville Remembered” series will be presented at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 14, in the Community Room of the Bridgeville Public Library. It will cover the 1930s decade, the “Depression Years” in our community.

John Oyler is a columnist for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-343-1652 or

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