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Urban Restorer Sees Trash Trees, Beetles As Signs Of Hope

University Park, Pa. --- Ailanthus, the trash tree famous for growing in sidewalk cracks, sewer grates and vacant lots, is usually unwelcome in a landscape architect's plans but Penn State's Ken Tamminga says its presence in Pittsburgh's Nine Mile Run area is a sign of hope.

So, too, he says was the surprising discovery there of African dung beetles. "Both Ailanthus and the beetles are resilient, early colonizers of the valley's extreme environments and symbols of the tenacity of natural processes," he explains.

Tamminga, assistant professor of landscape architecture, is the landscape architect and ecological designer on a collaborative effort, involving Carnegie Mellon University's Studio for Creative Inquiry, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and Penn State, to regenerate the Nine Mile Run area.

Identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as one of the most degraded urban stream areas in the United States, Nine Mile Run features 20 million tons of steel mill slag in piles 15 stories high, raw sewage mixed in with runoff in storm surges, illegal sanitary sewer overflows and a severe decline of native plant species. All this, and more, exists in the midst of a highly industrialized, thickly settled urban environment. The situation, Tamminga says, requires developing a new, less judgmental and more creative model for regenerating stressed ecosystems.

The Penn State landscape architect will describe the approach and the progress the team has made toward achieving their goals in a paper, "Hope for the Hyperstressed: Regenerating Pittsburgh's Post-Industrial Ecosystems," Thursday, May 13 at the 1999 Annual Conference on Ecosystem Restoration and Creation in Tampa, Fla.

The usual approach to dealing with a situation like Nine Mile Run is to remove the slag, grade the area and plant grass, he notes. However, in this case, removing the slag would be too costly and disruptive and it wouldn't be
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Contact: Barbara Hale
bah@psu.edu
814-865-9481
Penn State
13-May-1999


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