This past Monday night, 07/18/11, between 6:15 and 7:00pm, our area was hit with 2.25" of rain and high winds. That amount of rain in that period of time is just about equivalent to a storm that has a 1% chance of occuring every 100 years. The flooding in our area was intense. Rte 65 was shut down. Driveways were washed out; hillsides collapsed; some roadways had water up to the middle of your car door. We then had a break of a few hours and then it continued to rain on and off through much of the night. The damage caused by this storm was synonymous with the level of damage caused by Hurricane Ivan. The problem with this storm is when we experience the level of high heat and drought such as we have been going through, combined with rocky, clay-based soil we have in this part of western PA, the water hits the ground and it is largely not absorbed. Most of the water flows downhill. At the Legacy Fields, we got a lot of water. It was encouraging that the run-off from our neighboring property that routes its water via terracotta pipes onto our site was handled very well by the portion of our storm water management system meant to handle it. That water flowed through Pond #1 and then flowed in a controlled fashion to Pond# 2 which is slowly bleeding off each day as it was designed to do. So that was very good news. We did notice that Pond #3 took more water than it should have for a very short period of time. That pond is taking water from the northeast side of the complex and it is taking water from the area north of Hawthorne Acres which is crossing the street and coming on to our site. Representatives from QVRA were on the site during the storm to monitor the performance of our storm water systems and we held an on-site meeting with our engineer the following morning to review the observations and identify recommendations to tweak parts of the site to better handle the 100 year storm. For the past two years, we have received what are equivalent to 100 year storms every season. It has been really unfortunate but it is what it is. Our strategic approach at this point is to continue to modify the site with the assumption that we are in climatic pattern where we will have to live through such violent storms possibly through the next decade. The original design was meant to handle such a storm once every 100 years. We now are assuming we will get these storms 2-3 times per year. So we need to build some additional redundancies to protect the site. The color of the water in such extreme events still has an orange-hue from the iron and clay in the soil. However, once the grass we have seeded takes deeper root across the site that hue should dissipate greatly. Ideally, we would would like to start planting trees this fall on the non-field areas. That is part of our 2-3 year plan and the advantage in having more trees is the root structure will absorb water at a rate roughly 5 times that of grass. This is important because if the ground is hard from drought or saturated from frequent rains, the water will flow off the site. More trees will mean more water is being absorbed at a faster rate when the ground is being saturated. So if we are getting hit with many back to back storms, the trees will go along way to helping the site retain more and more water. Prior to construction, residents have reminded us that that hairpin turn next to the site used to flood in an uncontrolled fashion when rains like this would come through. These waters would bring with them all the non-anchored debris from the undeveloped site and dump this all into the Little Sewickley Creek. This uncontrolled flooding also endangered the integrity of the road foundation. Now, with the re-design of the site and our efforts to have the county repair the storm water outlets and repair some of the foundation of the road, that flooding has stopped and the road has remained intact. But we still have some tweaking to do over the next fall and spring season to make sure the site is well prepared for the next 50 years.
Representatives from QVRA met with the Bell Acres Council last night to provide an update on the status of the Bouchard Family Park project. QVRA identified that the storm water water management systems are now fully deployed and the remaining construction work on the site is largely cosmetic with the final spreading of topsoil and hyrdoseeding to occur before this coming weekend. Council asked that we continue to update the borough engineer and the borough manager as per our previous agreement and to have them attend the next site inspection by the Allegheny County Conservation District. The ACCD has advised that the site is far enough along that we can remove the chain link fencing with erosion control fabric along the perimeter. We will be allowed to remove the temporary construction baffles once we have good growth along 70% of the site but the QVRA Fields and Facilities Sub-Committee is recommending to keep the baffle structures in place for one more spring season regardless of the growth percentage on the site. The baffles are an eyesore but we should anticipate another spring season like the last two and we feel the baffles will help manage the flow of water while the root structure of the vegetation in the ponds continues to take deeper root. As mentioned in the previous post, the next phase of construction will involve the completion of the inner roadway and the vegetative and man-made privacy fence agreed to by QVRA will be constructed then.
We are finally nearing completion of Phase 1A. The majority of the site has been covered with topsoil and hydroseeded. The temporary baffles in the retentention ponds have all been tweaked to work more specifically with the demands of the site. The mild rains this summer and in the early fall will help promote continued growth of the indigenous vegetation along the slopes and within the retention pond areas. At this point, the QVRA Fields and Facilities Sub-Committee feels confident that the site will be ready for the next round of 100 year storms whether they come in the fall or in the spring.
Work left to do on the site involves some final spreading/seeding of the topsoil in the few areas not yet addressed, the installation of the scoreboard on Esmark Field, installation of power to the site by Duquesne Light, installation of the backstop netting and removal of the temporary backstop, replacement of the black batters eye cover with a green version to match the rest of the fencing on the site and final installation of the internal amenities within the Esmark Dugouts. Otherwise, all of our attention will be focused on the continued grooming and studying of the site.
Every site like this has what is in effect its own "personality": how the site handles the rains, the composition of the soil, what and how the vegetation grows or doesn't grow. With the site stabilized and the construction for this phase complete, we can now focus on better understanding how best to maintain the site over the next 50 years. In an effort to gain advice from different consituencies, we have reached out to the Penn State Turf Grass College in State College and we have also started a dialogue with April Claus, the Fern Hollow naturalist. We will look to the advice of specialists to help guide us in the development of our plan to plant trees across the site and identify the preferred types of vegetation across the slopes. Future phases for development on the site will occur as we raise additional funds and we feel that we can control the impact of any development across the site itself. This means future work will be done in smaller less invasive increments. Previously, we were forced to move as much earth because we had to re-design the entire foundation of the site.
The next phase of work will involve the completion of the inner perimeter road and some remaining infrastructure work. Given the types of rains we have experienced in the spring over the past two years, we will not begin any future work until after a spring season has passed. We don't yet know when that work might be planned to occur as right now our concern is totally focused on growing the grass, planting trees and further perfecting the look and implementation of nature's own storm water management system.
It is our expectation that during the spring of 2012 we will see families from different QVRA sports playing and enjoying all the site has to offer. It has been a very long, challenging journey but we are just about home.
We finally received what we needed: a few weeks of hot, dry weather. The infields on both baseball fields are tightening up as originally planned. Esmark Field has been hosting some colt/pony games while the little league field should be ready to go starting next week. Games being played on the fields will always be subject to the prevailing weather but we are past the stage of dealing with the flooding caused by the spring rains. Construction is still active on the site. It is very important for families to follow the directions of QVSB volunteers on where to park and sit during games. The construction crew is adament about not having people wander the site. For example, the area around the dugouts are off limits until they have been completed. If the crew feels people are not adhering to these rules, they will shut down both fields until construction is complete.
We have been fortunate over the past two weeks. The weather forecast has not materialized as originally forecast. It has been relatively dry and hot during the day. This weather has allowed us to work quickly on the following:
- Completed the grooming and seeding of all three retention ponds. We have placed stone in key areas to handle rapid water flow when we receive torrential downpours.
- Applied additional drainage to Esmark Field infield. The weather of the past week has helped to cure both infields on the site and they are hardening nicely.
- The dugouts and press box on Esmark field have been bricked, framed and roofed. Finishing work on all three is continuing and should be finished next week.
- The warning track on Esmark Field has been largely completed and the outfield fence will start to go up next week.
- The foundations for the dugouts on the WPIAL Softball field have been poured and brick work began this week and is expected to be completed next week.
- The large mini-complex site has been rockhounded, graded and hydro seeded
- The other remaining fields and plateaus will be rockhounded, graded and seeded next week.
- Grooming the grass fields to insure the root structure of both fields grows as healthfully as possible and to prepare us for the dry summer months. Although intuitively we would think all the water over the past 12 weeks would be helpful, the heavily saturated soil actually filled the pores within the soil and inhibited root growth.
- Manicuring of the perimeter of the site will begin next week. We will be looking at lines of site along Camp Meeting Road to make sure there is as much visibility as possible into/out of the site entrance.
Over the next two weeks, we will start to see the foundation for the spectator seating at Esmark Field poured followed by the metal structure that will support the individual seats. All in all, we are behind schedule by roughly 1 month due to the unfavorable weather February thru the 1st two weeks of May. The Grand Opening is now tentatively set for the weekend after July 4th. More details will be posted next week.
We are still waiting for dry weather. Crews are standing by ready to work as soon as the site is dry enough to handle the heavy equipment. We are hopeful that after today's storm we will get enough warm, dry weather that we can start working again late next week. Right now, our targeted completion date for the next round of work is sometime in early May. Once the fields dry out enough, we will have the QV High School Baseball and Softball teams out there training in anticipation of their late March games.