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Former Valley High School tennis courts may become parking lot

| Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010

Westmoreland County conservation officials hope to begin the next phase of a flood-reduction program at Valley High School this summer.

Rob Cronauer, a watershed specialist with the Westmoreland Conservation District, recently presented the New Kensington-Arnold School Board with several options for turning a little-used former tennis court into an environmentally friendly parking lot.

Cronauer acknowledged the parking lot would have little impact on the flooding potential at Valley High School. But he said it would serve as an example to communities and developers upstream -- where changes in stormwater management could reduce the risk of flooding at the high school.

School officials said the additional lot also could relieve parking congestion during events.

The old tennis courts are located in front of the high school near the Northern Westmoreland Career and Technology Center, across Pucketa Creek from the main parking lot.

Cronauer showed the board several options for parking configurations that would offer about 30 to 40 spaces. The lot could be made of porous concrete or stone, or be covered with grass.

Board members were enthusiastic about the proposal. The board indicated Mike Orr, the district's director of buildings and grounds, would work with Cronauer to finalize a proposal.

Orr said he would need to determine whether any part of the proposed parking lot overlaps land the vo-tech leases from the district. The terms of the lease could impact the size of the lot.

Board President Bob Pallone said he also was interested in learning whether the conservation district could convert some of the grass area on either side of the creek into overflow parking as well.

Board member Bob Sauro questioned whether the conservation district could convert the newer tennis courts, located at the far side of the high school between the track and a small parking lot, back into one large parking area. Sauro said the older tennis courts then could be restored to their original use.

Cronauer said he could convert the courts into "green" parking lots, but not rebuild the tennis courts.

Cronauer would like to work on the parking lot during the summer.

He said the only cost to the district would be to tear down the fence around the old tennis courts.

A series of grants awarded to the Pucketa and Chartiers Creek Watershed Association to improve those streams would pay for the Valley High School project.

The grants already paid for about $40,000 of work at the high school, including the installation of large rocks to rebuild the stream banks and V-shaped deflectors that channel water and sediment through the man-made section of creek.

Officials also are considering the creation of a large debris basin upstream of the school, between the athletic fields and Route 366. The basin would catch larger rocks and other debris and prevent it from building up in the shallow channel.

Pallone said he'd also like to arrange a meeting with city and watershed officials to see if similar parking lots can be created at Memorial Park to lessen the risk of flooding downstream.

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