Baltimore's Butchers Hill Makes Strides in Reducing Polluted Runoff

The following first appeared in the Baltimore Guide.

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This curb bump-out, at North Collington Avenue and Baltimore Street, is in the early stages of construction. Photo by Erik Zygmont.

Could it be the greenery? On muggy summer days, the temperature's a little lower in Butchers Hill, and shade seems more readily available.

In recent days, the bucolic neighborhood has gained even more green assets. With a "Blue Alley" and a water-filtering curb bump-out complete, and more on the way, the neighborhood continues to move toward fulfilling a greening master plan released in 2008.

A "Blue Alley" is an alley that has been made pervious, in which some rainwater absorbs into the ground rather than joins the rush of runoff into the storm drain system and eventually into the bay.

Last year, Blue Water Baltimore, the organization behind the Blue Alleys, told the Guide that in an especially severe storm, an under-drain below the pervious surface would funnel excess stormwater into the regular drain system, but even in extreme situations, huge discharges into the Bay would be reduced.

Similarly to Blue Alleys, curb bump-outs catch and absorb rainwater rather than allowing it to flow into the city's already-overwhelmed drain system. Curb bump-outs are essentially planting beds that take up space on the side of the roadways in the same manner as parked cars.

The two new curb bump-outs in Butchers Hill"�at the intersections of Chester Street and Fairmount Aveunue as well as North Collington Avenue and Baltimore Street do not result in any loss of parking, however, because they are placed at corner dead spaces, where parking was prohibited anyway so as not to impede visibility.

"I'm happy that they are nearing completion," said Sandra Sales, a Butchers Hill resident who has been liaisoning with Blue Water Baltimore for the Blue Alleys and curb bump-outs project.

"I look forward to the plantings and seeing how they really improve runoff into the harbor."

In addition to not impacting parking, the curb bump-outs feature pedestrian pass-throughs to allow pedestrians to cross the street.

"It's a new animal and it'll be interesting to see how that works," said Sales.

In a previous interview with the Guide, Blue Water Baltimore said that the bulk of the funding for the project was a $600,000 grant from the National Wildlife Foundation with $300,000 in matching funds from the Baltimore City Department of Public Works and the Baltimore City Department of transportation.

The overall project also includes two Blue Alleys in the Patterson Park neighborhood, just south of Fayette Street between Lakewood Avenue and Glover Street, and between Rose Street and Luzerne Avenue.

Both neighborhoods continue to work on greening initiatives. The Patterson Park Neighborhood Association recently received a $250,000 grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust for just that.

In Butchers Hill, Andrew Crummey, chair of the Butchers Hill Association's Streetscape Committee, said that about 15 trees have been added to the neighborhood this year, with assistance from the city.

The neighborhood's getting greener, but in a controlled fashion. Butchers Hill is one of the few neighborhoods in which all trees are, at the moment, fully pruned, which Crummey said is "fantastic."

He also noted the neighborhood's planting strips--green strips of grass or other plants between the sidewalk and the road--at the 100 block of South Chester and the unit blocks of North Collington Avenue and North Chester.

"If we could coordinate the curb bump-outs and the planting strips, a lot of water would be absorbed," commented Crummey.

--Erik Zygmont

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Issues in this Post

Land Use   Community   Conservation   Polluted Runoff   Polluted Runoff—Finding Solutions   Smart Growth   Sustainability   CBF in Maryland  




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