Compost Plays Role in Riverfront Restoration


Courtesy of BioCycle Magazine

Last year, work began on a new park designed to reconnect Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania residents with the Allegheny River. Bounded by the river, a highway, a bridge and embankment walls, the park was conceived to link Pittsburgh´s Convention Center and Point State Park while furthering its reputation as one of the country´s 'most livable' cities. The lower of two levels was completed in the fall, and when all work is done, the park will boast dense groves of trees and ground covers, native plants, clusters of large indigenous boulders, a pair of 350-foot-long concrete wheelchair ramps and unknown to most who enjoy the park is the biosolids compost incorporated into the soil mix used for much of the plantings.

The mile-long park is only 35 feet wide, which makes having the right soil instrumental to success, notes Laura Solano, senior associate at Michael Valkenburgh Associates, Inc., the landscape architectural firm that led the project. 'Having plantings, walkways and accessibility while still providing meaningful places is difficult, ' she says. 'Proportionally, the landscape has very little space to do a lot of work, so the viability of the planting areas is essential. '

Soil for the lower level of the park had to be manufactured because there was only slag underneath the existing parking area. 'There was no growth medium there, ' she says. 'It was a parking lot filled and paved over in the 1940s. When excavation for borings was done, we discovered absolutely no soil available for plant growth. ' Other challenges include the severe sectional grade changes that led to a two-level park plan, flooding caused by the location of the lower tier just three feet above the Allegheny River, and an adjacent four-lane highway.

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