Autumn 2015 Newsletter

Follow this link for an update on the activities of the Conservancy in 2015. It’s been a busy year!

MLNC Sept 2015 Newsletter Web s

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Goats At Work!

imageimageHere is an article by The Almanac’s Harry Funk, about our invasive plants removal efforts using goats from Steel City Grazers. The goats will be in Bird Park until Sept. 26th, eating their way through vegetation that is preventing the woodland from renewing itself. After this is complete, members of the Conservancy will return to the area to remove remaining invasive species, and replant with native trees and seed the area with native grasses and wildflowers.

Photos by Chris Gregory Phillips


By Harry Funk

When it comes to animals eating plants in Mt. Lebanon, some are welcome guests.

They’re the nine goats plus one miniature donkey with a temporary home in Bird Park, helping to rid it of invasive species of plants.

“Wherever we bring them, they adapt very quickly,” Doug Placais said. “Their love in life is eating, so they’re well-suited to the task.”

He and his wife, Carrie Pavlik, recently formed a business called Steel City Grazers, which provides animals as an alternative to weed whackers.

“We’re sort of like an eco-friendly landscaping operation,” Placais explained. “Homeowners or businesses or nonprofits can bring us in, and we’ll set up a perimeter of fencing and bring our goats to eat invasive species, weeds, anything unwanted.”

That includes poison ivy, to which goats are impervious, but members of the Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy are not.

The nonprofit organization has been working with the municipal public works department on a program to clear invasive species out of local parks. That often involves volunteers pulling weeds by hand, a process that can take a lot of time, effort and potential exposure to urushiol, the substance that makes poison plants the bane of gardeners.

“Goats are great at that,” nature conservancy board member Janice Seigle said as she surveyed the animals work Monday. “They’ve really done a job on it, in just a few days.”

Wimpy, Favorite and the other goats – along with Hobo, the donkey – arrived Saturday at the behest of the nature conservancy.

“We like the eco-friendly, no-fuss option the grazing offers, and we’re hopeful this is a viable solution to a serious problem in our natural parks,” Tom Schevtchuk, the organization’s president, said.

The animals are contained by an electric fence, set up by Steel City Grazers, that is powered by an equally environmentally-friendly solar panel.

The idea for Steel City Grazers came from Pavlik’s Peace Corps stint in Zambia.

“Farming is a way of life there, and everybody has chickens and goats,” Placais said.

The Pittsburgh couple picked up on the concept when they returned home.

“After we got our two milk goats, people started jokingly asking, ‘I hear goats can eat poison ivy. Can you come and clear our backyard?’” Placais recalled. “We thought it was kind of an interesting concept, and we’d heard about it in California, they use it a lot to clear fire breaks and that sort of thing.”

Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy members heard about Steel City Grazers and invited the goats to gobble up unwanted vegetation.

“They’ll just come in and eat all that up,” Placais said. “And then, hopefully, they can do a native planting and wildflower blend that will shade out the weeds next year.”
Harry Funk
Multimedia reporter
Harry Funk has been a professional journalist in Western Pennsylvania for 30 years, working primarily for community-oriented newspapers. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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Bird Park Restoration Underway

The restoration of the upper, eastern area of Bird Park has been underway since late July. Members of the Conservancy and Parks Advisory Board spent several days hand-cutting invasive honeysuckle bushes from slopes and areas that could not be reached by machine. These shrubs create a dense area of shade which allows very little to grow beneath them.

The work took a dramatic step forward recently when specialists from Eichenlaub Landscaping cleared a large area of invasive shrubs and vines with a forestry mulcher. As one can see by the photos, tree growth in this area has been severely restricted for many years because the shrubs and vines had created such a dense layer at the ground level. With the space now open, members of the Conservancy and the Parks Advisory Board will be seeding the area with native plants in a meadow mix, and planting several dozen new trees this fall.We will also be monitoring the area over the next several years to prevent the re-introduction of invasive species.

Jonathan Farrell has taken the lead on coordinating this project. Thank you to Tom Schevtchuk, Allison McGee, Angie Phares, John Franz, Ashley Setcavage and Ron Block for help with hand-cutting.

Thanks also to the Mt. Lebanon Commissioners, the Mt. Lebanon Public Works Department, the Mt. Lebanon Parks Advisory Board, and Eichenlaub Landscaping for support and assistance.

If you would like to help with trail reconstruction or tree planting this fall or next spring, contact us at, or Jonathan Farrell at 412-400-8755.


Here you can see an uncleared area next to the work area. The smothering effect of the invasive shrubs and over-running vines is clearly evident in this photo. Conservancy members will now work their way into these bordering areas by hand over the next few years to clear them of invasive plants and replant with native trees.

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Bird Park Restoration Planned for Summer 2015

Reprinted from Mt. Lebanon Magazine June 22, 2015

BIRD PARK RESTORATION The eastern half of Bird Park will undergo a much-needed restoration this summer. The dense thickets between the soccer field and Washington Road will be cleared of invasive honeysuckles and vines through a joint effort of the Parks Advisory Board, the Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy and the public works department.

Invasive plants can quickly take over an area, killing native trees. The proliferation of invasives was cited as a significant concern in the 2004 Mt. Lebanon Parks Master Plan, and the conservancy has been working to remove the invasives over the years. This summer’s work is targeting the densest areas of invasive shrubs and vines so that new native tree plantings can establish a self-sustaining woodland such as the one in the western half of the park.

The restoration plan consists of clearing shrubs and vines using a small motorized forestry mulcher within four acres of eastern Bird Park, and selective hand-cutting of an additional three acres along the edges of the park. Existing trees will be preserved. Because of their aggressive growth, the stumps of the shrubs that are cut must be painted with a low-toxicity, non-persistent herbicide to prevent re-growth.

Shrub clearing and stump treatment is anticipated to begin in July, and will be completed by August. During clearing, access to active work areas will be restricted and signage will be posted. The project is not anticipated to conflict with the use of John Doctor Field or public roadways. Tree plantings and re-seeding is planned to be completed in October.

Volunteers will be needed for both clearing and restoration activities—if interested, please call Jonathan Farrell at 412-400-8755 or contact the Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy at

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Twin Hills Gumbo Hike

Twin Hills Gumbo Hike March 21, 2015       by  Allison McGee

On the second day of spring, the temp was still chilly but the ground was clear of snow. As hike participants arrived it was evident that people were eager to be outside and shake off the winter cabin fever.

To make introductions among the 14 of us, our Volunteer Trip Leader David Bennett from Venture Outdoors asked us each to tell about a food that reminded us of home. The diversity of our group was revealed as each shared memories of Korean, Polish, Taiwanese, Italian and Southern Appalachian cooking… some very different upbringings, but at the same time a common deep connection that family recipes give us to our childhood.

And along the lines of connection, it was also part of the story of the Mt Lebanon Nature Conservancy and their role in local passive use parks in collaboration with municipal resources as well as leveraging volunteers to maintain and improve the parks for the community’s use. Trail maintenance and invasive abatement is a key activity. There is also a focus on encouraging enjoyment and appreciation of the parks through events such as School in the Park. Conducted annually for over 20 years, it was designed to be an enrichment program for third graders and to incorporate the conservancy’s goal of teaching the interrelatedness of all living things.

We were tracking through some Spring mud, which slowed our progress at times. But hikers enjoyed the leisurely pace and come good conversation with their newly discovered common interests. We went through many of the well maintained trails in the 25 acre park, then we exited and made way to my home for steaming bowls of delicious gumbo, along with French bread and dessert. A warming fire in the fire pit took the last bit of chill off the morning coolness as we enjoyed a day that was beginning its climb into the mid 50’s.

It was a morning of finding community with others, and also learning about a park that was new to many participants. We heard of how community involvement has lovingly transformed and maintained the park. We heard about foxes and Cooper Hawks that make their home there. Our day was energized by newly made friends and delicious food. Connections and collaboration, was the theme of the day and this joint Venture Outdoors and Mt Lebanon Nature Conservancy hike may become a new tradition.

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Autumn Newsletter


The Autumn newsletter highlights much of the work which occurred throughout 2014. We hope you find it interesting and informative. We’d like to thank our President Tom Schevtchuk for the many hours spent writing and editing this publication.

MLNC Newsletter Autumn 2014 web

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Holiday for the Birds

Holiday for the Birds

 10 am, Saturday, December 6, 2014

Mt. Lebanon Public Library, Castle Shannon Blvd.

Sponsored by the

Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy


In cooperation with Mt. Lebanon Public Library

Pre-schoolers (ages 3 to 6 years) will make a biodegradable bird feeder for their yard, share a story, and learn about local birds and wild animals with naturalist Verna McGinley.

This event is limited to 25 children. Please preregister at 412-341-7307 or

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Spring 2014 Newsletter

Here is the most recent newsletter from the Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy. In it you’ll find lots of information about our ongoing projects; as well as trail maps of our passive-use parks created by Jonathan Farrell.

Many thanks to our president,Thomas Schevtchuk, for putting it all together.

MLNC Newsletter Spring 2014

You’ll also note that we’ve recently added the Bird Counts from 2013 to our website, and an informative guide to the trees of Mt. Lebanon, written by Kenton McElhatton in 1991. Both can be found under their respective tabs in the header above.





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Annual Meeting to Feature Bill Metzger, Rail Trail Expert

The Annual Meeting of the Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy will be held on November 10, 2013 at the Mt. Lebanon Library from 2 to 4 PM. The program is entitled “True Tales of Rail Trails”

Guest speaker will be Bill Metzger, founding member of the Montour Trail Council and the Allegheny Trail Alliance. He is also the author of The Great Allegheny Passage Companion, a guidebook to the trail. He has been involved with the Rails to Trails program since its inception. His talk will be filled with folksy tales about how Rails to Trails started, how it grew, and a lot of great photos of the trail.

A former Mt. Lebanon resident, Bill Metzger has been a working railroader, a touring bicyclist, and a freelance photographer whose work has appeared in numerous publications. He resides in Confluence, Pennsylvania with his wife, Pam, and two cats. He bikes about 2,000 miles a year.

This program is free. Sponsored by the Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy. All are welcome. Refreshments will be served.

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Board Offers Proposed Modifications to ByLaws

During board meetings over the past year, it was noted that the Corporation By-Laws had not been updated since 1995. With this in mind, in the spring of 2013 a committee was formed to review the by-laws and make recommendations for revisions. The group met throughout the summer and spent many hours examining the document line-by-line. Their recommended modifications were presented to the rest of the board at our September meeting, and were approved by an official vote of the board. The modifications will now be voted upon by the regular membership at the Annual Meeting in November. Most of the modifications are minor and remove confusing or conflicting wording, or strengthen current Articles of Incorporation. Perhaps the most noticeable change is a simplification of the Mission Statement. The proposed statement now reads “The purpose of the Corporation is to promote the enhancement, growth and careful use of Mt. Lebanon’s green spaces, and to foster an appreciation of and respect for the environment.”  The committee consisted of Pam Burrett, chair; Katie Anderson; Louanne Baily; Mike Irwin; and Tom Schevtchuk. They were assisted by attorney James Webster. The Board is grateful to these individuals for their time and effort. The complete changes can be found on the linked document. Additions to wording are noted in red, and deletions are noted by strike-through edits.



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