Robert Tunon, a Rothschild Doyno Collaborative Architecture associate, said that he has been “blown away” by the support that has developed since the public joined the Etna EcoDistrict process in January 2018.
“You have a municipality, the officials in a community, partnering with the residents in a way that’s really cohesive and that’s really the joy of it,” said Etna resident Tunon, who leads the efforts as a volunteer.
The EcoDistrict initiative focuses on water, mobility, air quality, energy, food and equity.
The Etna Community Organization (ECO) arranged the larger monthly education series addressing each topic, with presentations from Christine Mondor, strategic principal, and Anna Rosenblum, senior project manager, from sustainable architecture and consulting firm evolveEA, and others.
Following the education meetings, smaller “champions” meetings further analyzed the EcoDistrict issues.
The 2018 EcoDistrict highlights were the installation of ECO-sponsored Etna Little Libraries, free community resources in which residents may take and leave books, and a Gardens of Etna solar canopy.
As an AmeriCorps VISTA through New Sun Rising, Alexis Boytim supports the Triboro Ecodistrict composed of Millvale, Sharpsburg and Etna.
One of her first tasks was speaking with Shaler Area High School Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) students regarding equity.
“One of the big components of equity is this idea that everybody is a part of the story and everybody has the opportunity to speak and share their ideas within the process,” Boytim said.
Boytim and GATE teachers Christina Palladino and Kathleen Elder set the goal of getting students involved monthly with EcoDistrict activities. Initially, four students designed “Equity in Etna” posters containing a black Pittsburgh skyline set against a gold sky emblazon with symbols representing various religions and genders. A Star of David prominently fills the middle. Words like “equality,” “liberty,” “family,” and “sisterhood,” grace the bottom. Boytim said the Tree of Life attack inspired the students’ design.
The ECO team honored the students for their efforts Dec. 5 during the Etna EcoDistrict Education Celebration capping off the education series.
Boytim and Tunon partnered to design “Etna is for Everyone” posters that equity meeting attendees received. Etna Print Circus silkscreened the posters on-site.
“The two hands are holding this heart,” Boytim said. “It’s just this sign of love and welcoming and I think it’s this pretty positive image, but the heart is composed of different leaves, which we thought would be an interesting idea because a lot of the street names in Etna are named after trees.”
Following the poster’s popularity, ECO also ordered logo buttons.
Etna EcoDistrict leaders will prioritize planning in 2019, Tunon said.
During the upcoming Etna Idea Round-up, people will have the chance to work in teams and possibly gain $2,000 in funding to implement their EcoDistrict ideas in the areas of water, air quality, mobility, energy and food. Each idea must address equity.
Experts will coach the groups as they work together, Boytim said, of the event, occurring from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 9 at Fugh Memorial Social Hall, 437 Butler St.
Etna Manager Mary Ellen Ramage is excited about progress on Etna’s development of its trail connection and riverfront park, part of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. She said the borough just accepted a low bid for the park’s infrastructure items, like walls, fencing and a bike and walking trail that address the EcoDistrict’s mobility goals. She hopes work on the first phase starts in the first quarter of 2019.
Phase II contains decorative items, such as a pavilion, benches, rain and educational gardens and signage. She hopes Phase II work will start in late fall. The phases, she said, are based on funding.
“Etna Borough is thrilled with the EcoDistrict work,” Ramage said. “The engagement of residents has been phenomenal and we are so excited to work alongside these engaged people. It is bringing our community closer together to work towards a more sustainable community. Like the posters and buttons said, ‘Etna is for everyone.’’’
Future EcoDistrict community planning meetings will occur from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. the first Wednesday, monthly. Check the Etna Community Organization Facebook page for location details.
The Etna Economic Development Corp., Sharpsburg Neighborhood Organization and New Sun Rising join evolveEA in the TriBoro EcoDistrict project sponsored by the Henry L. Hillman Foundation. The TriBoro EcoDistrict is a New Sun Rising initiative.
Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.