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Study to evaluate impact of Fern Hollow Bridge collapse on creek below

New study gets flowing to help restore fern hollow creek and valley
New study gets flowing to help restore fern hollow creek and valley 02:14

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The collapse and reconstruction of Pittsburgh's Fern Hollow Bridge harmed what's below it: the ravine and creek in Frick Park.

Now, a major study will evaluate the impacts on the ecosystem and identify what improvements are needed. UpstreamPGH has been working with many partners and the community to protect Fern Hollow.

The Fern Hollow Creek used to have a pretty healthy ecosystem.

"It had an established tree canopy, had a diverse set of plant palettes," said Mike Hiller, executive director of UpstreamPGH.

That changed in a matter of seconds when the bridge collapsed and fell into the ravine in Frick Park more than two years ago.

"When the bridge collapsed, obviously, it just took out all those trees. It's lying right in the stream, so it was a completely different landscape down there," Hiller said.

Today, a new bridge is up, hundreds of trees have been planted and a portion of the stream has been restored to some extent. But Hiller said much remains to be done. He said they hope to turn tragedy into something positive.

That's why the non-profit organization signed an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to partner up and study the creek and its ecosystem over the next 15 months.

"The Army Corps of Engineers will be looking at some very technical environmental analyses and modeling and figuring out how we can improve the Fern Hollow Valley," Hiller said.

Hiller said they'll work together to look at the impacts of the bridge collapse and reconstruction, plus potential improvements.

"The flow of the stream, diversity of plants, making sure that everything down there is native and natural, removing any invasive species, figuring out ways to improve some of the wetland systems," he said.

Miller said the creek had some issues before because it's an urban stream. Now, they'll figure out why the stream loses some of its flow at different times of the year.

"Looking at how we can bring the stream back to at least where it was before and hopefully even better than it was before the bridge collapse," he said.

When the study is done, they'll start building the projects and piecing together funding.

They can't wait for restoration plans to start flowing and eventually come to life, making the Fern Hollow Valley thrive for humans, plants, animals and aquatic life.

"It's already busy, but we can improve that and make it an even more enjoyable experience with this planning study and the eventual restoration," Hiller said. "We received national attention for the bridge collapsing. And it's our hope that when we are done restoring the Fern Hollow Valley, that we will show again to the country what it looks like to be resilient and to have climate resilient infrastructure."

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