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Guide to Etna's Sustainability Stroll

Originally posted in June 2021


Left. Sustainability Stroll Sign. Right. Solar Canopy.


This post is intended to be read as a self-guided tour of the Sustainability Stroll, but can reviewed at any time to learn more about the sustainability installations around Etna. This article was co-authored by Etna Borough Manager, Mary Ellen Ramage, who led the implementation of the majority of project's along the stroll, and ECO's Executive Director, Megan Tuñón who used this document to guide residents along the stroll on June 5, 2021. Currently, the main pedestrian connection across Pine Creek is closed for repairs.

Hopefully, you’ve been able to take advantage of the warm weather by following the bright blue signs around town on the Etna Sustainability Stroll. This loop takes you around Etna past some of the borough’s most visible sustainability projects. While many of these sites are visually impressive, the real magic happens behind the scenes: how much stormwater is collected, and how much energy is generated.


Left. Freeport Street Rain Garden Park. Right. Freeport Street Streetscape.


The Stroll begins at the gazebo on Butler Street and takes you down Freeport Street to the Freeport Street Rain Garden Park. Tucked into this densely built area, the rain garden adds much-needed permeable surface area to collect stormwater runoff. Water is collected from the sidewalk and surrounding roof downspouts that are connected to the piping system in the park. The underlayer of the rain garden collects stormwater runoff solids and has 842 cubic feet of subsurface storage.


Moving on, strollers will see permeable pavers that were added to the private parking area along Garden Alley, which break up the large impervious concrete sections around the downtown corridor. This project was a part of the Butler Street Streetscape project, which is the next stop on the stroll.


Tree bed in Butler Street Streetscape.


The Butler Street Streetscape has won acclaim from environmental and sustainability organizations across the country, and groups have traveled from far and wide to see it. The decorative grates collect stormwater runoff during rain events and directs it into storage tanks. Once held, it then infiltrates into the ground, rather than going through the combined sewer system and causing overflows. The underground tanks also collect runoff from downspouts of the surrounding buildings. The streetscape projects, which are still in progress throughout the downtown corridor, redirect over a million gallons of stormwater each year. The project also added many street trees to the Butler Street Sidewalk, further adding to the mitigation of stormwater and improving air quality. Phase 1 of the Green Streets captures around 640,000 gallons of stormwater a year; Phase II captures approximately 500,000 gallons a year and the third phase, which was just completed, captures 1.13 million gallons a year. Without these projects, stormwater would be overloading the sewer system and overflowing into our streams.


Left. Etna Little Pantry at Garden of Etna. Right. Permeable Paver Install at Etna EcoPark.


The Garden of Etna is another important stop on the Sustainability Stroll. Walking past the garden, you will see the newly installed solar canopy and electric vehicle car charging station. A project of Etna Borough and funded through the Henry L. Hillman Foundation grant to the Triboro EcoDistrict, the solar canopy generates its own energy which powers the electric car charging station and provides electricity to the Garden of Etna. This power will be used for demonstrations and events to be held at the Garden in the future.


Further down School Street is the School Street Rain Garden at the municipal parking lot. The parking lot was re-sloped so that runoff would flow into the garden which captures about 540,000 gallons annually through an underground tank system, diverting it from the combined sewer system.


Etna Little Library on High Street


As you stroll down School Street, you will pass the Etna Little Library, which was utilized as a Little Pantry during the COVID-19 Pandemic. This project has been supported by the community since it was built in 2018 with neighbors supplying both books and nonperishable food items. It is a beautiful example of a community coming together to support each other and share what they have during good times and challenging times.


Rain Garden at Etna Playground & Pool


The next stop is the Etna Playground Rain garden, a project that was part of a technical workshop that was attended by residents, landscape architects, students, and other interested parties. This beautiful installation was completed by members of the workshop and diverts water from the roof of the bathhouse by connecting the downspouts directly into the rain garden. The native plants in this garden enhance the natural beauty of the park and support pollinators.


Detour over Pine Creek during Pedestrian Bridge renovation.


Crossing the pedestrian bridge over Pine Creek, you will find the trailhead for the Dougherty Nature Trail, completed in 2009. This is the most beloved green infrastructure project that the borough has completed to date. You will find many residents on this trail that follows the path of the creek walking dogs, skipping rocks, and even fishing! If you’re lucky, you may spot Etna’s new mascot, the blue heron, which likes to perch in the branches above the creek. This area behind the ballfields that was once filled with trash and dumped material is now the site of stream remediation projects. Most recently, several trees were added to the bank as part of the Allegheny Health Department Air Quality Grant.


Left. Fruit-bearing trees along Dougherty Nature Trail.

Right. Planted bed on Butler Street Streetscape.


The final stop on the stroll is Etna’s newest greenspace- Etna EcoPark. Set for completion in July of 2021, this site will also host a rain garden, diverting runoff to Grant Street. It will also be the home of a raised herb garden, a little library, and pantry, and will be the site of future environmental education programs. Thanks for taking the time to learn about our small community’s big commitment to green infrastructure!


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