The Southwest Partnership has been given a grant of $25,000 by the Chesapeake Bay Trust, one of several Maryland organizations receiving the environmental restoration award. The money will be used to build an 895-sq.-ft. rain garden on the parking lot of the Southwest Baltimore Charter School starting this spring to help treat stormwater pollution flowing from the parking lot into the Chesapeake Bay.
“A better environment is important to a better community,” said Richard Parker, president of the Southwest Partnership board. “We are excited to take the next step towards this in Southwest Baltimore.”
The rain garden will be built at the center of the school parking lot facing the west side of South Carey Street. An anticipated 20 native plants scheduled for installation in the rain garden will filter part of the stormwater that falls onto the parking lot.
After filtering by the plants is complete, the excess water will flow through underground pipes to connect to the sewer storm drains. According to the partnership’s winning grant proposal, 84 pounds of stormwater will be treated annually once the rain garden is installed.
“The rain garden will greatly improve stormwater management by providing a permeable surface for a central area on the asphalt lot,” says Marilyn Powel, director of development and special projects at Southwest Baltimore Charter School.
Management of pollution from stormwater runoff into Maryland waterways has received attention by the state in the past few years. As a way for Maryland to manage water pollution, former Gov. Martin O’Malley instituted a rain tax toward the end of his term in Annapolis, requiring Maryland property owners to pay $10 to $15 per month (determined by the square footage of a house) for stormwater that runs off property. Residents can reduce their rain tax fee if they take steps to reduce the amount of stormwater leaving their properties and prove that they did so.
This project is the final phase of the school’s landscape plan that briefly lay dormant after funding for the project ran out in the fall of 2015. The Southwest Partnership, through its Safe, Vibrant, and Walkable Streets committee, stepped in and applied for the funding to keep the project moving forward.
“The committee originally planned to focus on improving the safety and walkability of the area under the B&O train trestle,” committee chair Chris Redwood said. The trestle, less than half a block from the charter school parking lot, is in desperate need of attention. This past May, the committee succeeded in getting the city to turn the lights back on under the trestle. They were off for years.
“When we learned that the rain garden project faced funding issues, the committee decided that this was more important than the train trestle project because of the overall benefit to the school and the health of the bay.”
Plans for the rain garden were developed by landscape architect Stephanie Tuite of Fisher, Collins, and Clark, and greenlighted by the Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Works as well as by the Baltimore City Public School System in 2015. The rain garden also received glowing support from community members. Maryland-based Parks & People Foundation will begin work to install the rain garden starting this spring.
“The rain garden will…increase the safety and viability of the S. Carey side of our campus by redirecting pedestrian traffic away from crossing the lot as an alternative to the…sidewalk,” Powel wrote in a letter from the Southwest Baltimore Charter School supporting the grant proposal. Safety on school grounds has been an issue in the past.
This project is only a piece of a larger effort to improve conditions along the strip of Carey Street between the neighborhoods of Pigtown and Franklin Square.
The Southwest Partnership is a coalition of seven neighborhood associations and six anchor institutions in the Southwest Baltimore neighborhoods of Barre Circle, Franklin Square, Hollins Roundhouse, Mount Clare, Pigtown, Poppleton, and Union Square.
The partnership includes the community associations of these neighborhoods as well as six neighboring anchor institutions: Bon Secours Baltimore Health System, The B&O Railroad Museum, The University of Maryland at Baltimore, The University of Maryland Biopark, The University of Maryland Medical System, and Wexford Science and Technology.
The Southwest Partnership envisions an awesome, healthy, architecturally beautiful, diverse, cohesive community of choice built on mutual respect and shared responsibility.