raingarden

Redemption for Streams, Communities

by Tom Damm

Site design for Harrisburg project

Before and After: Poster with new site design stands at project location in Harrisburg.

Local residents couldn’t help but wonder why some 40 people were gathered under a tent at the site of a neighborhood eyesore in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

One resident came by on foot, another drove up in his car to check out what was happening on this large asphalt parking lot flanked by dilapidated and shuttered buildings.

What they heard was good news.

The gathering was to announce the award of 17 Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns (G3) Partnership grants, including one for design work to help the Salvation Army Harrisburg Capital Region relocate its operations to this abandoned site at the corner of 29th Street and Rudy Road.

According to the Salvation Army, the site is ideally situated near those most in need of its services, is accessible via a central bus route, and is in close proximity to several local schools.  And – the reason for the gathering – the site will include green features to reduce stormwater runoff and improve the livability and vitality of the community.

This G3 grant will be used to design a stormwater management system that will include 20,000 feet of rain gardens, 100 trees, 1,100 native plants, a walking trail, cisterns and other means to capture an estimated 6 million gallons of rainwater each year.  That rainwater would otherwise stream from the property with pollutants in tow, impacting local waters like Spring Creek in Harrisburg that eventually flow to the Chesapeake Bay.

This is the sixth year the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Chesapeake Bay Trust, in partnership with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, have awarded G3 grants.  The more than 90 grants given to date are resulting in nearly $18 million in green projects, including more than eight collective miles of green streets.

As EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin told the crowd of awardees who came to Harrisburg from states throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, “This is an amazing partnership.  We’re improving water quality, but we’re also improving the quality of life in our neighborhoods and communities.”

 

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Walk your waterway today!

by Virginia Thompson

A view from the trail, high above the Schuylkill River

A view from the trail, high above the Schuylkill River

There’s nothing better than going for a walk in the fall to take in the cool, crisp autumn air.  We are fortunate that Southeastern Pennsylvania has an abundance of trails along the region’s waterways that make it fun and easy to explore a wide variety of scenic, historic, and cultural resources.

Along the Schuylkill River, the Cynwyd Heritage Trail demonstrates that these trails offer more than waterfront recreation: they also provide economic development, opportunities for regional coordination, and improved air quality.  The recently opened Manayunk Bridge, connecting the Cynwyd Heritage Trail – an abandoned portion of a rail line – to the Manayunk section of Philadelphia, now offers residents in both areas easier access to restaurants, parks, shops, and services, along with a breathtaking view from high above the river.  What used to be an area of manufacturing on both sides of the Schuylkill River (including the road that would become the Schuylkill Expressway) has given way to growing communities of residents, recreational opportunities, restaurants, and more. A weekly farmers’ market is now located on the Cynwyd side of the bridge, accessible to both city and suburban residents. Interpretive signs along the trail provide photos and descriptions of the history and geography of the area with information from the Lower Merion Historical Society.  The trail even incorporates green infrastructure: the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society will plant a rain garden of native flowers and shrubs in a striking palette of colors to help prevent stormwater run-off.

The trail provides easy access to all of these amenities without use of a car!  Perfect for walkers, bikers, and strollers, the trail is such a direct path between Cynwyd and Manyunk that it is now shorter and easier to walk or bike than drive between the two areas. Less traffic means cleaner air. And as we’ve blogged before, cleaner air contributes to cleaner water, too.

The Cynwyd Heritage Trail is one of many that connect to a large regional trail network that is part of the East Coast Greenway. Many of the Pennsylvania segments of this trail network snake along waterways like Darby Creek, Cobbs Creek, and the Delaware River. As more trails are built and connect to this network, more travelers can choose to walk or bike, further reducing the number of automobile trips and helping to clean our air.

I am looking forward to more walks–in all seasons–to explore the rich trail system and the waterways of the Philadelphia area.

 

About the Author:  Virginia Thompson works at EPA Region 3 to help protect the natural resources of our country.  She enjoys walking and biking whenever and wherever she can.

 

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Let’s Natuculture!

By Manny “The Mulch Hugger” Reyes

"The Mulch Hugger" in action.

For 20 years I have enjoyed working with awesome students at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, where I am making myself known as the ‘mulch hugger.’ 

I grew up in the Philippines totally unconcerned with nature.  I vividly remember my enjoyment in shooting beautiful tropical birds and collecting their eggs and my vision of converting forests into monoculture agriculture. 

Well, my passion has turned 180 degrees. Today I am working to promote the integration of natural systems into urban landscaping. 

Thanks to funding provided by EPA’s People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) program, my students and I have began natuculture.  What’s “natuculture,” you ask? The term, coined at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NCA&T), refers to any human-made system that mimics nature in “human disturbed landscapes,” such as your typical college campus.  We introduced the term at the 2011 EPA-P3 conference.

We ‘natucultured’ a typical lawn (that is a monoculture of turf grass) into a vibrant, chemical-free ecosystem with at least 150 flora and visited by multiple kinds of fauna.  I dare say that this place can be the coolest student hangout on campus.  Adjacent to it, the University recently razed a building and has designated the area to be a ‘green park,’ which we intend to landscape exclusively with native North Carolina flora. 

Image of "natucultural" landscape showing biodiversity

"Natucultured" landscape on campus.

We are actively spreading ‘natuculture’ in several K-12 campuses.  Yup!!!! We designed and built a raingarden in an elementary school and installed six rainharvesters in six high school campuses. We are now establishing biologically engineered experiments to help us learn how to improve soil health while producing chemical-free vegetables.  

Furthermore, we are developing lesson plans to integrate natuculture in K-12 science courses and organizing a natuculture scientific conference for high school students.  NCA&T faculty and students are actively partnering with K-12 faculty and are mentors to K-12 students.

About the Author: Guest blogger Manuel R. Reyes is a Professor of Biological Engineering at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. He helped start Kingfisher Park, ‘a haven of biodiversity;’ in the Philippines, and works to advocate agroecology in Southeast Asia through agroforestry and conservation agriculture technologies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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