Looking at a Green Street project for the first time, you might assume it’s nothing more than pretty landscaping. But it’s what you can’t see–what lies just below the surface (literally!)–where the magic really happens.
Last month, Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) staff conducted an inspection of the Glenmont Forest Green Street projects. In the last two years, the community has undergone a transformation. Now areas that were once turf grass bloom with native plants, decorating the landscape and attracting pollinators like bees, butterflies, and even birds, all while working hard to clean our water.
These plantings, or Green Streets projects, are small-scale stormwater facilities built along our roadways in the grassy areas between the curb and the sidewalk. They capture stormwater runoff from streets and sidewalks during storms, reducing the amount of water entering our streams, and, ultimately, improving the health of these waterways.
As rain and snowmelt run down the streets, sidewalks, and driveways, they pick up various pollutants along the way. These can be anything from litter to pet waste to salt. And it’s not just what the water picks up that is a problem either, but also how much and how quickly that water enters our streams. Rather than soaking into the ground, this fast-moving, excess water harms our waterways by causing erosion and sedimentation.
Glenmont Forest, built in the 1940’s and 50’s, wasn’t constructed with modern day stormwater management practices in mind. This means its streams are more susceptible to the negative impacts of runoff, making the community perfect for Green Street projects.
Now let’s get back to that underground magic I mentioned earlier! Glenmont Forest Green Streets use two main techniques to combat this runoff:
In both of these designs, stormwater is diverted into an inlet opening in the curb and then into the garden or tree box. The water and any pollutants it has carried with it are then absorbed by the roots of plants and filtered through a mixture of highly permeable soils (sand/soil, mulch). This soil mixture contains microbes known to break down pollution through natural biological activity and help the plants absorb nutrients. The runoff is then stored in an underlying gravel layer before slowly soaking into the ground or flowing through an underdrain into the storm drain system.
The Glenmont Forest green street project includes 53 individual projects. And just like you’re probably thinking, installing that many projects was no easy feat!
In fact, DEP has been working with the community and contract engineers since 2014. After years of experience and working with landscape architects and designers, each project utilizes tried and true green street designs. These designs are comprised of native plants with:
And now, just over one year after the plants’ installation, they are flourishing. Summer has come to an end and the vibrant blue flag iris and mauve clusters of joe pye weed will begin to fade. But asters, with new, small lavender buds, will take their place. And in the cooler months, little bluestem grass will put on its own colorful show, changing from green to a rusty red-orange.
As with any well laid plan, these projects will never be truly complete. Regular maintenance–funded by the Water Quality Protection Charge is key to their ongoing success.
Every month, a DEP-hired maintenance contractor visits each project to:
Collectively, these projects not only help improve the health of local streams, but, on a larger scale and long-term basis, translate to better health for the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.
This project wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of the Glenmont Forest Neighbors Civic Association and the patience and support of the community during the construction phase of the project.
Want to see the Glenmont Forest Green Streets for yourself? Grab an umbrella on a rainy day and take a stroll through the neighborhood to see the projects in action!
Residents can also help reduce stormwater pollution by installing stormwater practices on their property through several of the County’s programs listed below. Residential programs to improve landscaping, lawn or energy use within the home are also available, including ways for residents to volunteer for green initiatives.