Proud to be from Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh Botanic Garden



PITTSBURGH - Things are starting to bloom at Pittsburgh Botanic Garden as volunteers and staff hustle to finish construction in time for opening day .

Unlike most other botanic gardens, this is not landscaped property donated from a wealthy estate.

Instead, it's abandoned industrial land near Settlers Ridge, being cleaned up and brought alive mostly by volunteers. 

“These are eighth-graders from the Environmental Charter School and they are building wattle fences,” said Kitty Vagley, the director of development, on the day Channel 11’s Peggy Finnegan visited.

Vagley has her hands full, but luckily she has many helping hands from scouts to schools to corporate volunteers.

“They do things like pull invasive plant species, plant natives, help us clear trails.  There's plenty of work to be done,” she said.

Last year, volunteers logged 6500 hours of work with the goal of opening the Botanic Garden this summer on Aug. 1.

Turning 460 acres of abandoned mining land into a botanic garden is a monumental effort.

The biggest challenge has been cleaning up the site.

“We have an amazing acid mine drainage issue on this site, and we actually have a giant reclamation project going on,” Vagley told Finnegan.

A solar panel actually powers a filtration system that is removing the acid from a pond, and for the first time in decades, the pond has seen tadpoles and dragonflies.

Vagley said the birds are coming back, too, 96 different species.

“Because we have planted, with birds in mind lots of native bushes and berries and things that birds are going to eat,” she said

The Woodlands of the World will be the first section to open.

It will include five different woodland experiences, miles of walking trails, the now clean pond in a Japanese garden setting, a  dogwood meadow, and of course, the birds.

Pittsburgh Botanic Garden will be the only botanic garden in the United States built on reclaimed land.

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