Just a few blocks from Lancaster City is the home of CBF members Paul and Judy Ware. Their five-acre property along Marietta Avenue was falling prey to an all-too-familiar marauder—stormwater runoff.
Velocity, as it turns out, was not only moving pollutants and debris downstream, but also the Wares' front yard.
On any given day the flow of this spring-fed, unnamed tributary to the Conestoga River would be considered a lazy meander, but that's definitely not the case during heavy rain events. Velocity, escalated by the channeling-by-design function of a culvert beneath Marietta Avenue, transformed the gentle spring-fed stream into a roaring river. Over time, the Wares were left with an eroded, severely channelized stream with six-foot banks. The creek, the waterways downstream, and the Bay, were left with excess sediment and polluted run-off.
Mr. Ware worried on several levels: for the safety of his 7-year-old grandson who loves to look for frogs and other critters; for the erosion of his property; and for the water quality of the creek itself. Mr. Ware, who also owns property in Maryland, understands the connection between our actions here in Pennsylvania and the potential impacts downstream. He decided that the solution to their stormwater woes was to transform it from a burden into an asset.
So Paul and Judy called upon the expertise of John Hershey, Client Manager for RGS Associates, Inc., and LandStudies Inc., to design an alternative. The conventional solution would be to add-on to the already existing stormwater detention basin, which was situated near the culvert. Considered the status-quo for dealing with stormwater run-off, these basins are designed to hold onto the increased flow while allowing pollutants and sediment to settle out. But for the Wares, a bigger basin in their front yard was anything but palatable.
Looking through a big-picture lens, Mr. Hershey and LandStudies approached the project with a holistic mindset.
Their plan: deconstruct the existing stormwater retention basin, restore and reconnect the stream to its floodplain, plant native pollution-filtering plants, and establish wetlands for additional filtering and for enhanced wildlife habitat.
Their goal: create a slower, healthier, meandering stream that would naturally handle increased flow, even during heavy rains, without eroding away the property. By re-establishing a natural floodplain the Wares would handle their stormwater in a natural, greener way.
To Paul, who enjoys the challenge of finding creative solutions to everyday problems, it was an investment that made sense. This was not just a solution to the problem on his property, but also an opportunity to inspire his neighbors and the community to maybe think a little differently about how we "handle" water.
The Wares' next project: establishing a rain garden to help hold and filter water.
For Mr. Ware, he says that he no longer worries; the frogs have returned, the ever-changing colors of the plantings and flowers are a joy, and he knows that not only is his grandson safe, but that the water on his property and downstream is now cleaner.
Congratulations and thank you to the Wares' for their efforts to improve local water quality and the Chesapeake Bay.
The project was supported by Lancaster Township, and it's believed to be the first of its kind in Pennsylvania where a municipality permitted the removal of a traditional suburban stormwater basin in favor of floodplain restoration.