CAMBRIDGE — A private parking lot belonging to American Legion Post 91 in Cambridge is now capable of filtering the stormwater runoff that passes through it, helping mitigate the amount of pollutants that enter the Choptank River.
Rife with systems that will hamper stormwater pollution in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed — including a bioswale with a collection of plants native to Maryland — the project will help the state meet its Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan goals, serving as a “demonstration” for how parking lots can “minimize water quality impacts to local waterways” in the wake of climate change, according to Choptank Riverkeeper Matt Pluta with ShoreRivers.
The lot, which will be used as overflow parking by the legion but will otherwise be fenced off, is constructed with porous asphalt, a mixture that captures and sieves stormwater, entrapping its sentiments and pollutants before slowly releasing it to the subsurface soil.
The stormwater, instead of running into the river as overland flow, which would cause erosion of the nearby banks, drains into a bioswale filled with native trees and plants, including Maryland’s state flower, the black-eyed Susan. By using local plants, the bioswale, which also captures sediments from a storm drain on the other side of the Post 91 parking lot, will increase biodiversity and provide a habitat for pollinators, Pluta said.
Along with ShoreRivers, the other collaborators on the project include Easton-based engineering firm Rauch Inc., Post 91 and the State of Maryland.
“It’s always really exciting,” said Casey Rauch, engineer at Rauch Inc. He said the company uses drone footage – captured by Ward 3 Commissioner and RAUCH employee Jameson Harrington – to look at the before and after progression of a project. “When you can put them side by side, that really gives you that gratification, to see how it turned out.”
The nearly $200,000 project, funded in part by the Chesapeake Bay Trust, the Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Maryland State Bond Bill, was unveiled during a Sept. 24 press event. In addition to the primary partners on the project, state and local representatives attended the opening, including Harrington, State Del. Johnny F. Mautz IV, R-37B-Talbot, and Sen. Addie Eckardt, R-37.
“I think (the lot) is very environmentally friendly,” Eckardt said in an interview. “And that’s what we want.”
In addition to its environmental benefits, the renovation also includes general improvements to Post 91’s extra parking lot. According to Pluta, though the number of spaces remained the same at 24, their width and depth are greater, as are the widths of the driving lanes.
Both the partners and state representatives said preserving the integrity of the lot’s design will be essential in ensuring its lifespan.
“Putting in a project is only one step,” Eckardt said. “Maintaining it is also a major responsibility.”
According to Rauch, the parking area should be cleared of debris regularly in order to preserve the efficiency of the lot as debris could clutter the intentional holes in the asphalt. He also said the bioswale should be weeded and preserved.
The state, which owns the Bill Burton Fishing Pier and the south end parking lot across from Post 91’s “green” lot, has announced it will be undergoing a similar green project with the pier’s parking area, installing rain gardens in the next year or two and using the Legion’s bioswale for overflow. Though the changes will help stop sediments from flowing the Choptank River, Pluta did not know if renovations would include a porous asphalt makeover.
“That’s huge,” he said to the crowd. “That goes to show how we can work across property lines to really solve some of these water quality concerns.”