Walking around the six settling ponds and wetlands in Lowber should be easier this fall after the watershed group managing the mine drainage treatment system builds a trail around the Sewickley Township site.
The Sewickley Creek Watershed Association hopes to have the crushed limestone trail, just under a mile long, completed at the site along Lowber Road this year, said Tom Keller, executive director of the association.
“Once it is done, it will be easier for people to walk around the site, to walk their dogs,” Keller said.
A $5,500 grant from the Laurel Highlands Conservation Landscape will be used to pay for a maintenance road that will be cut through the brush along the backside of the settling ponds, Keller said. Once it is “roughed out,” gravel will be spread along the trail, which will make it easier for students to access that side of the settling ponds to sample alkaline water gushing from the long-abandoned Marchand mine, Keller said.
The section of the settling ponds along Lowber Road is open for walking.
As part of the requirement for the grant, which was recently announced at a conservation program at Saint Vincent College, the watershed association must provide an in-kind contribution. That will be in the form of trail work done by volunteers, Keller said.
The Sewickley Creek watershed project was selected by a five-member committee in a competitive funding process, said Marla Papernick, program manager for the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. The council is an external partner of the Laurel Highlands Conservation Landscape program, one of seven large regional organizations designated by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to drive strategic investment and actions around stainability, conservation, community revitalization, and recreational projects.
In addition to building the walking trail this year, Keller said the organization still plans to build an open-air education pavilion, measuring 24 by 40 feet, at the 12-year-old passive mine drainage treatment system. The pavilion will give students a place to use laptops and test samples of treated water, as well as give the association a place to meet, Keller said.
Once a foundation is poured, it will cost about $15,000 to build the pavilion, Keller said. The nonprofit watershed association has raised money for the project and is negotiating with a building supplies company to furnish the materials, Keller said.