Beloved Highlands turtle to find new home at middle school rain garden | TribLIVE.com
Valley News Dispatch

Beloved Highlands turtle to find new home at middle school rain garden

Brian C. Rittmeyer
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Brian C. Rittmeyer | Tribune-Review
A concrete turtle sits in front of the former Highlands Support Center in Fawn on Monday, July 8, 2019.
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Courtesy of Bob Barrage
The 1,400-pound concrete turtle was donated to Birdville Elementary School by the 1966-67 Birdville PTA. It measured seven feet long, four feet wide and two and a half feet high. A highlift placed it on the school’s playground for children to climb over, under and around.

A 1,400-pound concrete turtle that has called two Highlands School District schools home over the past half-century is on the move again.

Plans are in the works to move the large concrete turtle in early November to Highlands Middle School in Harrison, where it will become part of a new rain garden there, school board President Debbie Beale said.

The rain garden, built as part of a stormwater mitigation effort, seemed like an ideal place for the turtle, said Beale, one of the volunteers who helped put in plants at the garden in July.

“Turtles require water and land with ample room to explore,” she said. “What better place than by a rain garden that has a filtration system to keep it clean and healthy and happy?”

The turtle was donated to Highlands by the Parent-Teacher Association at the former Birdville Elementary School and it arrived at the Harrison school in January 1968. After Birdville, now home to Citizens Hose, closed in 1989, the turtle was moved to Fawn.

It sits in front of a former school building that was last known as the Highlands Support Center before it closed at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

District officials are working on the details of moving the turtle-shaped chunk of concrete from Fawn to the middle school, where the rain garden was installed near Broadview Boulevard and California Avenue.

Beale said the plan is to move it the week of Nov. 4, to coordinate it with tree planting scheduled for the end of the week on Saturday, Nov. 9.

A total of 54 trees are expected to be planted, according to township Commissioner Chuck Dizard. Of those, 27 will go along Sycamore Street in Natrona, 18 on Union Avenue, seven at the rain garden and two in the Natrona Playground.

Beale said moving the turtle intact will be a delicate process.

“When it got moved from Birdville out to Fawn, it took pretty heavy equipment to get that moved and not do any damage,” she said. “It’s solid concrete. It’s not hollow, so it’s pretty heavy.”

The turtle had originally been part of a playground, but it only was a display piece at Fawn.

While moving the turtle to the current Early Childhood Center in Brackenridge or the elementary school in Tarentum had been considered, something like the turtle is not something usually found in playgrounds anymore, Beale said.

It will remain a display piece at the rain garden, where there are benches for people to sit, relax and enjoy the scenery.

“This way, it can be enjoyed by all ages,” Beale said.

Highlands is still trying to sell the Fawn property, located at 5591 Ridge Road, according to a notice on the district’s website. The district did not get any offers when it sought bids earlier this year, with a $500,000 minimum.

“At this time, there are no plans to do another round of bids,” district spokeswoman Jennifer Goldberg said.

Those interested in the property should contact Lori Byron, the district’s business manager.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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