Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Back in Burlington, Vermont

My summer visit to Pittsburgh has ended and I am back in Burlington, Vermont.  As I will be posting about Burlington as well as Pittsburgh on this blog, I wanted to give a bit of a background...

Church Street During Rain
(Church Street in downtown Burlington during a fall rain)

Burlington is a much smaller town than Pittsburgh (about 1/10th the population) but like any urban area, it suffers from excessive runoff from impervious substrates.  There is not the issue of combined stormwater-sewage outflows, but because Burlington is right on the shore of Lake Champlain, any urban runoff from the city is dumped directly into the lake without any wetlands or creeks to naturally purify it on the way.  Along with this runoff comes motor oil, pet waste, and road salt.

As in Pittsburgh, rain barrels and rain gardens can help reduce the problems associated with urban runoff in Vermont.  The plants may be a bit different, because it gets significantly colder in Vermont than in Pittsburgh... but the general process is the same.  Here's a website with info on rain gardens in Winooski which is directly adjacent to Burlington.

Burlington is also adjacent to a small forest parcel known as Centennial Woods.  Like Schenley and Frick parks, this area contains many mature trees and is home to lots of wildlife (in this case including beavers) but is largely surrounded by urban areas and is utilized for nature-oriented recreation and education by many residents.  It also has a creek that is influenced by urban runoff, but several measures have been taken to reduce its effect.  For instance, detention basins upstream from the creek help reduce 'flash floods' from paved areas.  During the next few months, I will be watching the creek in Centennial Woods to see how its flow patterns compare to Panther Hollow Run.

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