When considering a site for an Earth Day event, José Rosa thought of Boyce Mayview Park in Upper St. Clair.
His wife, Katie, wondered about the venue.
“Why Boyce Mayview? There’s really not that much trash,” she said.
As frequent visitors to the park, the Rosas certainly appreciate the presence of 574 acres of undeveloped land not too far from their Cecil Township home.
But even amid such a relatively pristine environment, litter tends to accumulate.
“My wife and I hike these woods probably two or three times a week, and I just started looking around and noticing this trash. Trash, trash, trash, everywhere,” José said. “When you take two or three steps in and you look around off the beaten path, you see it everywhere.”
To help remedy the situation, he and Katie, owners of Everest Eats Plant-Based Kitchen, organized an April 22 cleanup at the park. Dozens of participants braved unseasonably chilly temperatures to lend a hand.
Among them was Upper St. Clair resident Dave Wilton, who has spent years removing items from Boyce Mayview that don’t belong there.
The Rosas met him while he was emerging from a wooded area with a full plastic bag, and their subsequent conversation led Wilton to draw upon his experience with similar events to help them organize the cleanup.
“About two decades ago, I started picking up the trash here in the park, and I just never stopped,” Wilton said. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but the whole park is actually a giant dump site.”
The primary reason is about half the park once was the farm serving Mayview State Hospital, across Chartiers Creek in South Fayette Township. Opened in the 19th century, the hospital and its related institutions once constituted the largest population center between Pittsburgh and Washington, except for Canonsburg.
The trash generated by the thousands of people at the site generally didn’t travel too far, and Wilton has being doing his part to extricate as much of it as possible.
“People watch me do it and think that somebody’s just come here and thrown it in here,” he said. “I say, ‘Yeah, about a hundred years ago.’”
Examples of what he’s found were on display during the Earth Day event, with primarily metal scraps, many of them of substantial size, half-filling a trailer donated for use by Adam Rossi of Adam Solar Resources in South Fayette.
“Even if something weighs 200, 300 pounds and is way down in the valley, I’ll just pick it up budge it a few feet, and then just drop it,” Wilton said.
“The next time I’m passing through, I’ll pick it up and move it a few more feet. And I just keep doing that for, like, a year, and it will be where it needs to go.”
Event participant Justin Beinhauer also has been busy at Boyce Mayview, having recovered, among other items, six tires, a 40-foot-long section of landscape fabric, planks of treated lumber with the screws sticking out, and a variety of aluminum cans and plastic bottles.
“There are two garbage dumpsters that are in the creek,” he said. “I couldn’t haul those out. I’m going to need a hand.”
Among others attending the cleanup were Robinson Township, Allegheny County, residents Bethany Thornton and son, Finn, a Scout who was earning conservation hours by participating.
“We just really love to be outside, and we love the earth,” Bethany said. “And we just want to do as much as we can to clean it up and make everything look good.”
For the Rosas, organizing the event represented an opportunity to celebrate Earth Day while promoting awareness of a subject they consider to be essential.
“It’s all about sustainability for us,” José said, “and creating a cleaner, more sustainable environment for our son, Everest, and our daughter, Denali, and all the future generations.”
The few major items that remain in the new Peters Township High School project are nearing completion.
During Monday’s school board meeting, Roshelle Fennell of construction management firm SitelogIQ provided an update indicating the school’s auditorium is to the point where an inspection is being scheduled with the township while final cleaning takes place. Electrical contractor Farfield Co. is finishing the room’s sound system, Fennell said.
“Once that area is turned over, we will then start the training on the various systems within the auditorium with everybody who needs to be involved,” she told the board.
Work also progresses on the natatorium.
“We started to set the pool equipment,” Fennell said.
“The lights have been installed, those above the pool and around the pool, and over the spectator area. The sound panels have been installed. We have performed some testing on the paint installation and are waiting for the results.”
Landscaping around the building has resumed, including the installation of grass plugs in the islands throughout the parking lots.
SitelogIQ also is providing management services for the conversion of the former high school to the district’s new middle school.
“It’s going really well,” Fennell said. “We’re actually getting ready to start putting some ceilings back in on the second floor.”
Framing has begun in the school’s new administration area in anticipation of the shipment of windows, with installation expected in mid-May. Heating, ventilation and air-conditioning units are on site, ready to be lifted onto the roof when it has been completed.
Contractors also have been working on sorting out the wiring that has accumulated in the building over the years.
“We tried to clean out all that ‘spaghetti.’ I think we did a pretty good job,” Fennell said, noting that district Director of Educational Technology Adam Swinchock has been consulted “so we know what to take out and what not to take out.”
Also with regard to the middle school, the school board Monday officially authorized its relocation from 625 E. McMurray Road to 264 E. McMurray Road.
When the school opens for 2021-22, it will include sixth-graders, as the board approved a resolution closing that grade at McMurray Elementary School.
The board also approved a $6,000 agreement with Architectural Testing Inc. for field-testing services at the high school related to leaks that have been occurring.
According to Ron Dunleavy, who chairs the board’s buildings and grounds committee, contractors disagree about the cause.
“The fact that some of this may go to litigation, it would be great to have third-party inspection,” he said.
The “park” portion of Bethel Park’s name certainly is appropriate.
Thirteen municipal recreation areas are peppered throughout the 11.7 square miles of Bethel Park, and they constantly receive the attention of local officials with regard to maintenance and improvements.
The latest focus is on Millennium Park, where work will begin within the next few weeks on converting an all-purpose field to a baseball-specific field with a synthetic turf infield.
“There will be a new playground going in there, as well, and a new trail around the perimeter of that field, so that people can walk while their kids are practicing,” said Stacey Graf, municipal director of engineering. “It will take most of the summer to get that work done.”
Also included is the conversion of a public works shed into a concession stand and improvements to the adjacent restrooms.
As for the baseball field, it will be configured for PONY Baseball and Softball’s Bronco League specifications, for players ages 11 and 12. Those include a pitching distance of 50 feet, bases 70 feet apart and home run distances with a maximum of 275 feet.
Bethel Park received a $268,000 grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior, Graf reported, toward an overall project cost of about $950,000.
Other municipal parks receiving facelifts include Oak Tree and Birch Tree, sites of large-scale stormwater management projects.
“They’ll be getting their final touches this summer with new playgrounds,” Graf said.
At the Park Avenue recreational area, next to the Bethel Park Community Center, improvements are planned for 2022.
The existing baseball field is to be converted to a splash pad, and a new grandstand put in place for the football field. Serving both the areas will be a restroom featuring two levels, to accommodate the site’s topography.
Upgrades also include a new playground and three pavilions with plenty of green space between.
“We really are trying to make it a destination site,” Graf said, also noting its proximity to Bethel Park Historical Society’s Schoolhouse Arts and History Center on South Park Road.
The municipality has been awarded two state grants for the Park Avenue project: $750,000 from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital, managed by the Office of the Budget, and $200,000 in Gaming Economic Development Fund money.
Graf said the municipality is applying for grants for next year as part of efforts to continue to keep up with the needs of the park system.