Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Green Infrastructure Stormwater Management: Evans Parkway Retrofit Demonstrates Why Parks Are an Ideal Choice for Green Infrastructure

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Green Infrastructure Stormwater Management: Evans Parkway Retrofit Demonstrates Why Parks Are an Ideal Choice for Green Infrastructure

Article excerpt

Evans Parkway Neighborhood Park, a 5-acre park in the Glenview community in Montgomery County, Maryland, was long overdue for rehabilitation. The park property was acquired by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) in 1954 as part of its rapidly expanding stream valley park system in the two Maryland counties to the north and east of Washington, D.C. In the 1960s, a neighborhood park was built for the community surrounding the park, but 50 years later, the aging playground and recreational facilities that were suitable for a bygone era no longer served the community's needs.

In this community of modest single-family homes and small apartment buildings, as with many of the burgeoning Maryland communities near the Washington Beltway in the 1960s and '70s, stormwater was primarily managed by straightening and channelizing the meandering streams that drained into the tributaries of the Anacostia River, which is itself a tributary of the Potomac River.

To manage stormwater runoff during this time of intensive development around D.C., natural floodplains were filled and steams re-routed to flow underground in concrete pipes. Those that were not buried underground were mostly redirected into open concrete-lined trapezoidal channels that were designed to rapidly move stormwater away from the developed areas, roads and homes before they became flooded.

These buried and channelized streams are perfect examples of so-called "gray" infrastructure, designed and built for many decades to treat stormwater. They may be ugly structures, but they were functional, and they served their purpose well for the past 50 years, except in the largest of storm events.

But, who wants to live with their children next to a concrete-lined stream that periodically and unpredictably fills with dangerous rushing water and leaves heaping piles of soaked and disgusting trash at culverts as the stormwater recedes?

Green Stormwater Management at the Neighborhood Scale

With the acquisition of a 2.4-acre lot adjacent to the existing Evans Parkway Park, M-NCPPC planners saw a perfect opportunity to retrofit this park with examples of green infrastructure stormwater management techniques, including the naturalization and restoration of a 300-foot long concrete-lined stream channel. Their hope was that Evans Parkway Park could serve as a demonstration site for future green infrastructure approaches to stream restoration and, thereby, engage local communities more in the health of their local watersheds. As an added incentive, they were intrigued by the idea of submitting this park renovation project for certification by the Sustainable Landscapes Initiative (SITES) program, a sustainability rating system that has sometimes been called "LEED for landscapes."

Trish McManus, a landscape architect and design section supervisor, and Andy Frank, a civil engineer and environmental engineering section supervisor of the park development division at M-NCPPC, gave an overview of how the Montgomery County parks department has been involved with stormwater management since the 1970s. Originally, the focus was on larger scale and regional stormwater management facilities, but with growing regard for low impact development (LID) techniques and better understanding of natural hydrologic processes, the focus moved to smaller scale systems that are more context sensitive. "We have found that by treating parts of a watershed as distinct elements of original natural systems, rather than piping stormwater to one central pipe or holding facility, it has allowed for many improvements in treating stormwater on-site, especially using groundwater recharge as a means of allowing soils and wetlands to soak up stormwater and to extend the base flows of streams," Frank says.

This approach is now being reflected throughout the 36,000-acre park system, McManus and Frank say. They purposely leave adequate land for green stormwater management in any new park acquisitions, and they are creatively trying to look at how to retrofit gray to green facilities and parklands throughout their system. …

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