Volunteers plant 1,000 trees at Bell Acres park

Monday, April 23, 2018 | 3:54 PM

The Quaker Valley Recreation Association (QVRA) always has had big plans for Bouchard Family Park in Bell Acres.

But when site development began in 2009, early construction operations led to significant water runoff issues.

This prompted the state Department of Environmental Protection to get involved.

According to Jeff Lipton, president of QVRA's board of directors, environmental regulators demanded the organization address the water retention issues before finishing construction of the sports complex.

On April 21, QVRA planted 1,000 trees in five different areas to help address those DEP mandates.

Through a grant from the Partnership for Trees Program, sponsored by the Alcoa Foundation and American Forests, Tree Pittsburgh provided tools, instruction and plants for the event.

The Pittsburgh-based nonprofit, which promotes urban forests, applied for the grant in partnership with QVRA last year.

“The grant is a total of $22,500 to plant 2,000 trees over two years,” said Jake Milofsky, director of tree care and reforestation at Tree Pittsburgh.

Another 1,000 trees will be planted next April.

Volunteers planted more than 15 species of trees this year, including aspen, white oak, Norway spruce and river birch. Tree Pittsburgh's planting methods follow standard mine reclamation practices.

“We chose trees that are tolerant of clay soil, and we will be planting them approximately eight feet from each other,” Milofsky said.

More than 60 volunteers planted trees along the hillsides in the park to help stem runoff into Little Sewickley Creek, Tree Pittsburgh spokeswoman Maggie Graham said.

“The idea is to get the trees situated in five different regions, and we are going to care for them over the summer,” said Lipton, of Sewickley Heights.

Although the trees that were planted are small — 2 feet tall at the most — they offer enormous value to all those who use Bouchard Family Park, organizers said.

“This will fulfill our obligation and allow us to move forward and to build out the rest of the sports complex,” Lipton said.

The next step for the park includes a soccer field, complete with parking facilities to accompany it. QVRA also wants to build a pavilion, nature trails, a larger concession stand and another multi-use field for both lacrosse and soccer.

The park currently contains a baseball and a softball field, both of which are used by the high school, as well as QVRA's youth sports leagues.

“We have a lot of work to do, but we've been held back by the fact that we've had to deal with these very costly environmental steps,” said Lipton.

Dealing with water runoff has been counterproductive for QVRA, but Lipton believes the park “will be beautiful” when all work is done.

Sam Bojarski is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.