By Sue Botos
In an effort to address the rising tide of stormwater runoff, Rocky River will participate in a pilot program that will demonstrate the use of “green infrastructure.”
At a recent meeting, Tom Evans and Thaddeus Holland of URS Corp. explained to residents and city officials how the project will turn City Hall’s employee parking lot, adjacent to Hilliard Boulevard, into a prototype, using various measures to redirect rainwater back into the ground rather than allowing it to flow into the sewer system.
“The city was able to get an Ohio EPA grant to demonstrate innovative stormwater practices,” Evans, former chairman of the city Beautification Committee, told the group. He referred to the $164,000 SWIF (Storm Water Improvement Fund) grant secured by the city to show residents and business owners how permeable materials and landscaping can be used to reduce and filter “urban runoff.” The SWIF program was created by the Ohio EPA in 2008 to provide funding for local governments’ water quality improvement projects.
Due to recent federal regulations, Evans said that the emphasis has shifted from water quality to water quantity. “The goal is fishable and swimmable waters. This has affected the storm and waste water world,” he stated. He added that during wet weather, stormwater runoff contributes to sanitary discharge into Lake Erie due to infiltration between the two systems.
The project will also rebuild the employee parking lot, constructed originally as a temporary area, as well as add 10 more spaces, raising capacity from 32 to 42. Evans explained that the lot would be designed to pitch water to the center, where an area of “pervious concrete,” set over a rock bed, will direct the flow into the ground. This area will also have several “tree pits” where plantings would help soak up moisture, and additional plantings to buffer the lot from the street.
In addition to reducing flooding and the mix of storm and sanitary sewer water, Evans stated, “Green infrastructure uses all of the biological functions we’ve gotten away from in traditional engineering.”
He added that this is a trend that is “sweeping engineering,” and predicted that this type of stormwater management would be mainstream in five to 10 years. “This is not just solving excessive sanitary discharge, but is a way to inject greenery back into urban neighborhoods,” Evans stated. He said that a similar project was done at Mayfield Heights City Hall. Showing pictures of that work, Evans noted that the pervious concrete resembled traditional pavement, and was just as strong, but had a rougher texture.
Photos showing tree pits backed Evan’s comment that it was possible to have some shade in a parking lot without giving up space.
Evans told the group that the project was halfway through the planning phase and, according to the grant’s mandate, must be completed by the end of the year. While admitting that the pervious concrete is costlier than traditional paving, the design does not call for large catch basins, and makes parking lots safer because there will be no pooled water, which could turn to ice.
Safety service director Mary Kay Costello commented that a similar project had been discussed for the ice rink parking lot, but on a smaller scale. “We were hoping that in another grant cycle, we could make this larger,” she stated.
“This transformation is exciting stuff,” Evans noted. “This is a whole new era of stormwater and engineering practices, and how we mimic Mother Nature.”