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Mt. Pleasant's rain garden project is nearing end stage

| Thursday, June 27, 2013, 9:33 a.m.
Crews from Jupina Landscaping Inc. work recently to demolish the crumbling brick bench and retaining wall by the restroom building at Frick Park, which will be replaced by one of the two rain gardens being installed by the Mt. Pleasant Borough building at 1 Etze Ave.

Rob Cronauer calls it mimicking Mother Nature.

That's the purpose of the ongoing rain garden project in Mt. Pleasant.

The gardens — designed by the Westmoreland Conservation District — add splashes of natural beauty throughout town while absorbing rainwater runoff where asphalt and concrete have edged out earthen soil, said Cronauer, the district's watershed specialist.

“Basically, with all these stormwater projects, we're trying to retrofit areas to counteract the effects of development,” he said.

In 2009, Mt. Pleasant was allocated $475,250 in federal grant funding through the state Department of Environmental Protection, to cover the cost of bringing rain gardens to the borough.

The following year, Mt. Pleasant became the first municipality in the state to install residential rain gardens by doing so in the Ramsay Terrace section of the borough.

Soon after, borough leaders were cited for providing one of the best examples of community partnerships with the district through the initiative.

Earlier this year, the funding was used to install of a storm water retention basin on property owned by Excela Health Frick Hospital.

The project's latest phase recently began with the planned installation of two rain gardens near the borough building in Frick Park.

One of them is being installed near the park's restroom building by Penn-based Jupina Landscaping Inc., according to Kathy Hamilton, the conservation district's landscape architect/stormwater technician.

Borough engineer McCormick Taylor provides oversight on the projects and helps the borough seek contractors, Hamilton said.

The second garden will be located in the narrow lawn area between the park's restroom and the borough building at 1 Etze Ave, Hamilton said.

“Both gardens will contain landscaping that will be low-maintenance, will have some seasonal interest and will help with the uptake of water from the gardens during and after rain events,” she said.

In addition, they both will intercept storm water runoff coming from uphill onto Etze Avenue, which contributes to winter icing problems, and subsequent damage to the paved surface in front of the borough building and its handicapped-accessible entrance, Hamilton said.

Issues with ice coating Etze Avenue are seen as a threat to hamper emergency response efforts of the borough's police and volunteer fire departments.

“That ice takes up about half of that lane from the (Frick Park) walking track down past our police cars,” said Dan Zilli, the department's assistant police chief. “If it helps curb that, it would help us out a lot.”

Borough Manager Jeff Landy said he would like to see the gardens make a difference in warmer parts of the year, too.

“In the summertime, the Frick Park ball field gets a little soggy or muddy after heavy rains,” he said. “Hopefully this will alleviate some of that.”

The cost of the current rain garden project at Frick Park, combined with another two rain gardens to be installed at Frick Hospital, under the same contract, totals approximately $60,000, Hamilton said.

With the September deadline for usage of the grant funding looming and roughly $50,000 still available, the borough is eyeing implementation of one last rain garden in town, Landy said.

“I believe there's going to be one more installed in parking lot across from the gazebo,” he said. “Rainwater runoff there leads to ice buildup in Union Alley. That last portion of money will help solve that problem.”

A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or