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Sunday, May 21, 2017

From Collapsed Drain to Rain Garden

The drain on this park path collapsed years ago. Ever since, it has flooded. The standing water acts as a bird bath, but also collects trash and risks incubating mosquitoes. It may be time to rethink the design of this space to manage the stormwater differently.

The current design relies on the drain to shunt stormwater into the municipal sewer system. There is no provision for managing it on site, and since the drain broke, the water collects on a paved surface where it is not used by plants or absorbed back into the soil.

This space really wants to become a rain garden. A modest redesign could easily allow it to grow plants and let the water penetrated down into the ground. Most landscape architects could typically lay it out in their sleep, except for one complication with this site. The level area where the water drains is a path that the Parks Department relies on to drive service vehicles.

A more interesting, if somewhat more expensive, solution presents itself: construct a miniature viaduct. Two simple rows of very short footings and the minimal structure needed to support steel grates would allow for a permanent, relatively inexpensive and maintenance friendly driving surface, with ample space underneath for an attractive range of plants to inhabit a rain garden. The grates would allow Parks vehicles and people to pass above, as well as allowing taller plants to grow up through. With a small capital budget and a creative landscape architect, this space could become much more than a bird bath and mosquito breeding ground.

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