Elements of the Triboro Ecodistrict: the six focus areas
Above: The Millvale Youth Bike Rally, hosted yearly by the Millvale Community Library, gives out free bicycles to kids and teens in the borough. The library is solar powered and has a Community Free Fridge on the back deck with free pantry items, produce, and prepared meals for neighbors in need.
When the ecodistrict planning process began in Millvale in 2012, residents identified three quality of life lenses necessary for sustainable community development: Food, Water, and Energy.
This was released with the first iteration of the Millvale Ecodistrict Pivot Plan in 2014, which sought to build on community assets in designing system-based solutions to address community challenges.
After further engagement and implementation work with the community, the Millvale Ecodistrict Pivot Plan 2.0 was released in 2016 and expanded the lenses to include: Equity, Air Quality, and Mobility. These lenses were adopted and modified by Sharpsburg and Etna to fit their communities and in 2019 the Sharpsburg Community Vision Plan and Etna EcoDistrict Plan were released.
In an effort to create language that is accessible to everyone, the quality of life lenses serve to provide a framework that uses comprehensive and inclusive language while highlighting the three Borough’s most central needs in following their ecodistrict plans.
To learn more about the elements of the Triboro Ecodistrict and what they mean to each community, we’ve compiled a list of the three Borough’s lens definitions and projects that align with each.
While the projects may be housed under a specific issue, it should be noted that many serve multiple issues simultaneously with Equity acting as the overarching lens found in each quality of life area.
By pursuing these community-serving initiatives, the Triboro Ecodistrict fosters three inclusive communities that embrace diversity and empower residents to shape their future individually and collectively.
Millvale: Millvale is a place of self-determination, where Millvalians are able to participate and shape their future as well as the future of Millvale.
- Project: Millvale Youth Dance and the work of Jenny Jo Mendak
- Mendak, owner of Hometown Tattoo and a Millvale representative on the Triboro Ecodistrict Advisory Board, started Millvale Youth Dance and Events because the borough was lacking space and programs for local kids. Including the dance, she also hosts talent shows, pizza parties, hikes, and her door is always open for kids who need someone to talk to. In an effort to create a third space for kids, she is currently working with the Millvale Community Development Corporation to turn a vacant lot into a playground with funding from The Grable Foundation.
Sharpsburg: Sharpsburg is a community of opportunity where we thrive as individuals and collectively.
- Project: Sharpsburg Comprehensive Affordable Housing Action Plan
- Over the past five years, interest in Sharpsburg properties has reached heights not seen in generations. As more young families and people with higher incomes seek to live in Sharpsburg, the risk of displacement faced by longtime residents, especially renters, is critical. Add to this pressure the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to redevelop Sharpsburg’s riverfront, long a metal scrapyard, from brownfield to mixed-use community asset, and it’s clear that the community needs to work to preserve and plan for a diverse mix of housing options that allows for people at all income levels to enjoy life in Sharpsburg. Over the next year, Sharpsburg Neighborhood Organization and community partners will work with Studio for Spatial Practice to engage residents in a planning process that will help create a strategy for everything from housing-related programs for residents to development plans for different types of housing affordable and accessible to Sharpsburgers.
Etna: Etna is an inclusive community that embraces diversity and activates everyone to shape our future together.
- Project: Etna Center for Community
- Located at 341-343 Butler St., the Etna Center for Community will be a community center and community library upon completion. Etna entered an agreement in December 2021 with the Millvale Community Library to create the Rivertown Library System, and the two boroughs will share staff and resources to bring complementary services to each community. There’s been a critical educational asset missing from Etna since the library closed in 2004 and the Etna Center for Community will reinforce equity as well as each of the Triboro’s quality of life issues with programs such as: early childhood education, senior programming, food programming, access to technology, and more. In August 2022, Etna Community Organization began a monthly Library Series to gain feedback and input from the community on what kinds of programming they’d like to see.
Millvale: Millvale is a foodie paradise known for hyper local production.
- Project: Millvale Market
- A project by Jen Saffron, owner of Sprezzatura, and Derek Dumont, former buyer for Harvie, the Millvale Market aims to offer local produce, pantry items, and prepared foods for residents. Millvale is considered a food desert, and this market changes that for the community. Accepting SNAP benefits, they are going to work with as many local farmers and purveyors as possible while offering affordable products.
Sharpsburg: Sharpsburgers will have access to affordable and healthy food and will be connected to a regional food network.
- Project: Sharpsburg Local Food Network
- In 2020, the Sharpsburg Market Garden opened and continues to grow fruits and vegetables that are freely given to anyone in need. In its first year, it provided 190 pounds of produce for the community. In 2022, Second Harvest Thrift Store installed a Community Free Fridge and Pantry outside of the building that is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for anyone to take what they need or leave what they don’t.
Etna: Etna is a food-secure community with opportunities to grow, buy, share, and eat food locally.
- Project: Dinners for Neighbors
- During the early days of the pandemic, Etna Community Organization created the Dinners for Neighbors program and offered free, prepared meals for residents to pick up every Wednesday. The meals were funded by donations and the food was prepared by local restaurants and caterers. They also delivered meals to the residents of Etna Commons, the borough’s senior high rise, who were particularly isolated during that time. Etna also partnered with Sharpsburg Neighborhood Organization and Allegheny County Health Department to distribute produce boxes. In the end, the program ran for 17 weeks. They distributed 3,650 meals, reinvested $31,138 in 24 local businesses, and provided 8,800 lbs. of fresh produce to residents.
Millvale: Millvale is part of a just watershed system known for productive and pleasurable landscapes.
- Project: Girty’s Run Cleanup
- In July 2022, George Ackerman and Olivia Ivatts organized a Girty’s Run Cleanup (Girty’s Run is a tributary of the Allegheny River and runs through Millvale). Fifteen volunteers finely combed the creek and removed a wide variety of trash from the run. A special thanks to the Penn State Extension Master Watershed Steward program, and Mary Wilson, who brought out most of the volunteers to help that day.
Sharpsburg: Sharpsburg will integrate and celebrate water as an asset throughout the community.
- Project: FEMA Community Rating System
- With Sharpsburg’s long history of flooding and related issues, many property owners are required to pay for flood insurance through FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program. In an effort to offset the costs and improve flood mitigation activities in the community, the borough is working to enter into the National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Rating System. The program gives communities a classification based on their level of flood mitigation and preparedness activities, which results in discounts applied to flood insurance premiums for all property owners in the community. In July 2022, Sharpsburg Neighborhood Organization hosted the first Flood Awareness Day + Week.
Etna: Etna is a resilient community that protects its people and waterways through creative water interventions.
- Project: Etna EcoPark
- With its main function being stormwater management, this park sits at the lowest point in Etna’s flood plain and is built on the site of a flooded-out and abandoned building. It has a 1000 sq. ft. rain garden and the entire surface of the park is permeable. The space also hosts monthly Nature Nights, an environmental program for kids and families in the area.
Millvale: Millvale is a place where people of all ages have the freedom to move safely.
- Project: Solar Powered Crosswalks
- Through grant funding provided by New Sun Rising from the PA State Department of Community and Economic Development through State Rep Sara Innamorato’s office, solar powered crosswalks were installed by the Borough of Millvale Public Works Department on Evergreen Avenue. The road is highly trafficked and the crosswalks add additional visibility and safety for pedestrians. (This project has also been installed in Etna and Sharpsburg using the grant funding.)
Sharpsburg: Mobility is essential for all generations and should improve quality of life and advance the economy.
- Project: Bike Share Program at Sharpsburg Community Library
- Through Healthy Ride’s Recycle A Bike program, Sharpsburg Neighborhood Organization (SNO) and Triboro Ecodistrict secured five bicycles for the Sharpsburg Community Library; the organizations are working together to design and launch a bike share program giving residents the opportunity to check out bicycles using their library card. New bicycle racks are being installed for this program at the library using funding from the Hillman Foundation and with help from Bike Pittsburgh.
Etna: Etna is a connected community where people of all ages have safe, reliable, and affordable mobility options.
- Project: Etna Riverfront Trail and Park
- A decade ago, the Borough of Etna and residents began reimagining what the long industrialized riverfront could look like through the Allegheny County Community Trails Initiative. The Etna Riverfront Trail and Park development plan included 17 municipalities and will eventually connect to the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, which will connect Pittsburgh to Erie when completed. The Borough is also developing another trail from Shaler to Etna, with support from Etna Community Organization, called the Pine Creek Connector Trail. I will run from Kiwanis Park in Shaler through to the Etna trail with improvements to the pedestrian and bike infrastructure in Etna and around the Route 28 interchange.
Millvale: Millvale is home to clean air communities where people breathe easy indoors and outdoors.
- Project: The Reserve & Shaler Land Protection Project
- Allegheny Land Trust is working to protect 62-acres of farm and forest land in the Girty’s Run Watershed in Reserve and Shaler Townships, upslope and upstream of Millvale Borough. The community and Shaler Area High School Sustainability Students are raising $50,000 locally to unlock grants and close the funding gap, with $650,500 needed to purchase the land by December 2022. Protecting this land will preserve habitat for native flora and fauna, absorb heavy rainwater from Girty’s Run Watershed, and conserve thousands of trees that offset our carbon footprint.
- In 2021, Allegheny Land Trust permanently protected 155-acres of Girty’s Woods from development.
Sharpsburg: Sharpsburgers will breathe clean air indoors and outdoors.
- Project: Breathe Easy Air Quality Monitoring Station
- Located outside of the Sharpsburg Community Library, the Air Quality Monitoring Station provides residents with real-time outdoor air quality data through an online Air Quality Dashboard to inform, activate, and engage residents. The Breathe Easy Project is a Triboro-wide initiative, with Air Quality Monitoring Stations also located at Etna’s playground. This project was honored with a 2021 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence.
Etna: Etna is a healthy community with empowered advocates that take a balanced approach to air quality.
- Breathe Easy Air Quality Monitoring Station
- The Breathe Easy Air Quality Monitoring Station at Etna’s playground, part of the Breathe Easy Project and a Triboro-wide initiative, is linked to an online Air Quality Dashboard that displays real-time outdoor air quality data to inform, engage, and activate residents. The monitoring station will be relocated to the Etna Center for Community courtyard when complete. This project was honored with a 2021 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence.
Millvale: Millvale is home to self-reliant urban solar villages.
- Project: Solar Installation at 216 North Ave.
- In 2022, a grant was awarded by Green Mountain Energy Sun Club to New Sun Rising (NSR) and Millvale Community Development Corporation (MCDC) to fund the future rooftop solar installation and level two electric vehicle car charging stations at 216 North Ave. NSR and MCDC worked together to secure Federal Community Project Funding to renovate 216 North Ave. Owned by MCDC, they are collaborating with evolveEA with aspirations for the building to be Net Zero.
Sharpsburg: Sharpsburg will strive to become an energy independent community.
- Project: Sharpsburg Solar Expansion
- Through a variety of programs and efforts, Sharpsburg is working to expand its clean energy footprint and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. As participants in the Triboro Ecodistrict Solar Co-Op with Solar United Neighbors, Sharpsburg residents and businesses interested in installing solar were able to work together to solicit joint bids from solar companies in order to bring down costs for all participants. Additionally, through the GET Solar Program from Pennsylvania Solar Center, Sharpsburg Borough was able to explore and understand its solar generation potential through the roofs of municipally owned buildings, finding that both the Department of Public Works facility and the Linden Gymnasium were strong candidates for net-positive solar generation and off-grid power storage. The Sharpsburg team is now seeking funding to make this environmental, social, and financial opportunity a reality.
Etna: Etna is an innovative community that takes collective action to provide smart energy solutions.
- Project: Solar Array at the Garden of Etna
- The solar carport and EV car charger at the Garden of Etna is 6.48kW with an annual output of 6957 kWh. The car charging station is free for residents, or anyone, to use and it powers the Garden’s lights, rain barrel pumps, electric gardening equipment, and cooking appliances during food events.