Friday, September 21, 2018

Boy Scout Part IV: Restoring Blooming Bioswales For A Better Youghiogheny River In Ohiopyle

By Peter Livengood, 12th Grade Student From Ohiopyle, Fayette County

Editor’s Note: This is the last in a series of four articles by Peter Livengood, a 12th grade, homeschooled student from near Ohiopyle in Fayette County. In the articles he describes four projects he completed this year to qualify for the William T. Hornaday Silver Award-- think of it as an Olympic Medal for conservation work by a Boy Scout. Peter will know if he qualified for the award on October 23.

Everyone’s heard of a bioswale before, right? Well, maybe not. Up to about 4 months ago, I could not have told you (or anyone) what a bioswale was and how it worked.
So, let’s get down to the definition: A bioswale is a man-made landscape design element that is designed to capture and filter street run-off water to remove road pollutants such as salt and gasoline.
Bioswales provide a natural method of storm water conveyance that is superior to the standard storm drains and storm sewers. A bioswale works like this: envision a flower garden contained within a concrete curb along a city street.
When it rains, run-off water from impermeable surfaces (parking lots, streets, etc.) flows along the side of the roadway. There are sloped inlets cut into curbs that channel the water into a bioswale.
Once the water has entered the bioswale, it percolates down through the mulch, plants, and soil of the bioswale, effectively filtering and cleaning the water. The water then flows into a perforated pipe at the bottom of the bioswales, and the water is conveyed away.
So, how did I get so well versed in the science of bioswales?  
I took on the renovation of 4,000 square feet of bioswale area in the Borough of Ohiopyle as my Eagle Scout/William T. Hornaday Silver Medal Award Project.
The bioswales in Ohiopyle were constructed in 2010. There was no regular maintenance performed on the bioswales for a period of 7 years, which resulted in the bioswales becoming overrun by invasive plants and weeds, and the inlets in the street curbs became clogged with leaves and debris, preventing water from entering the bioswales (which makes them useless).
My project restored the bioswales to full functionality, making them both beautiful (with flowers and mulch) and useful in keeping the Youghiogheny River clean.
To ensure the ongoing maintenance and success of the Bioswales, I created a maintenance fund. The Ohiopyle Borough hired an official Bioswale maintenance person with the money that I raised for the maintenance fund.
As part of my efforts, I created a GoFundMe page, "Ohiopyle Bioswale Maintenance Fund," to provide a long-term source of funding to keep the Bioswales beautiful and Youghiogheny River clean for years to come.
Through my project, “Blooming Bioswales for a Better River,” over 1,700 hours of community service were recorded.  The work included myself and 35 volunteers-- other Boy Scouts, family members, a Penn State Master Gardener and many others.
Five community members, myself included,  received the President's Volunteer Service Award for our volunteer hours during the project.
Now you might see this 1,700 hours of service number and think that I am surely a madman. Why would anyone do that much work?
Well actually, community service really doesn’t seem like work. It has a different, happier feel about it.
Now, whenever I go into the town of Ohiopyle, I can see the results of my project and how much of a difference it makes for the tourists, the residents, and the Youghiogheny River.
I understand that some folks may not have the time, resources, or desire to take on so large a community service project as I did. Don’t worry. You don’t have to.
Anything and everything you do to give back to your community will be rewarding in a special way. Don’t believe me? Try it and find out!
I promise you that it will be worth your effort. And if you ever come to Ohiopyle, be sure to take notice of… “the blooming bioswales.”
(Photos: Newly restored bioswale during a rainstorm (top); Renovated blooming bioswale near the Ohiopyle playground - Peter Livengood.)

Peter Livengood has been a Boy Scout since 2013 in Troop #687 in Farmington and lives on a small family farm.  He has been a certified Conservation Ambassador by the PA Wildlife Leadership Academy since 2015, attended the Penn State Conservation Leadership School in 2016 and 2017, is a member of the Allegheny Plateau Audubon Society and was appointed to the Governor's Youth Advisory Council on Hunting, Fishing and Conservation.  He can be contacted by sending email to:
Other Articles In This Series:

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