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Asphalt is out, greenspace is in

MIDDLEBURY — “We’re going to cut out a lot of asphalt,” said Patrick Olstad, a landscape architect with LandWorks, in describing his firm’s plan for updating a part of Rutland that should decrease water runoff — and therefore pollution — into Otter Creek.
In the Otter Creek watershed alone, water runoff from developed lands — the expert’s way of categorizing runoff from human development that includes paved streets, roofs, parking lots, lawns, sports fields, as well as back roads — contributes 14 percent of the phosphorus runoff going into Lake Champlain.
The Environmental Protection Agency this past summer ordered Vermont to ensure that the Otter Creek watershed make a 22.2 percent reduction in this source of phosphorus pollution.
What’s needed to address those miles of asphalt, according to Department of Environmental Conservation specialist Jim Pease, is to “re-envision the impervious landscape as a little greener.”
Over the decades, towns have done a superb job of creating pipes and ditches to get water off the roads, said Pease, but now we’re recognizing that all this great engineering is itself a source of phosphorus pollution in Lake Champlain.
“For years, good engineering meant drainage, so we’ve created this network of piping and swales that essentially takes the water from the pavement directly to the river as a conveyance system and with the water goes the pollutants.” said Pease. “No longer is the water held on the land.”
Rain gardens, such as those in the Marble Works, are one approach to re-envisioning this “impervious landscape” and driving water into the ground where it can be filtered and absorbed rather than into the lake.
Right now LandWorks is working on plans for Rutland, to make segments of the approach to downtown both more pleasing to the eye and more effective at holding and filtering stormwater.
“There’s a lot of pavement,” said Olstad.
He describes part of the redesign they’re working on for the Strongs Avenue entrance to downtown Rutland, especially at the intersection with Route 7, where LandWorks plans to remove a fair amount of asphalt.
“This is something we find a lot when we look at existing conditions in most communities,” Olstad said. “There’s way more asphalt than they need functionally, parking lots are not laid out efficiently and so there’s opportunities to actually cut out asphalt and create green space. Then you can do things like create bioswales and rain gardens.”

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