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Anne Arundel County Watershed Restoration

Anne Arundel County Watershed Restoration Grant Program Feature: The City of Annapolis and the Fairwinds Condominium Community

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Anne Arundel County Watershed Restoration Grant Program Feature:

The City of Annapolis and the Fairwinds Condominium Community

The City of Annapolis is proactively cultivating stormwater treatment and management improvements to diminish the impacts of stormwater runoff. The historic city’s unique geographic location provides a diverse terrain of both urban and natural surfaces. “Annapolis has encountered its fair share of stormwater damage and flooding, especially between March and September,” notes Mike Rossberg, Stormwater Engineer for The City of Annapolis. “We’ve seen a notable increase in these occurrences in recent years, and the City has been working to improve municipal and residential systems.” These efforts include investing in projects aimed at managing stormwater through the Anne Arundel County Watershed Restoration Grant Program.

This grant program is a partnership between the Chesapeake Bay Trust (the Bay Trust), the Anne Arundel County Bureau of Watershed Protection and Restoration, and the City of Annapolis. Projects funded in this grant program aim to improve water quality throughout the County and City’s local streams and waterways. These projects can design and implement stormwater management practices that minimize flooding as well as intercept and treat runoff.

What is stormwater runoff? 

Stormwater is the overflow of rainwater or melted snow streaming over surfaces like roads, parking lots, and lawns. Ordinarily, this water should seep into the ground, get filtered, and naturally replenish aquifers or flow into rivers and streams. However, during heavy rains, increasing impervious areas and saturated soil can lead to excess water running across surfaces, carrying pollutants like debris, chemicals, and bacteria into water bodies, adversely impacting the Chesapeake Bay’s health.

How does stormwater management help?

Stormwater management is vital for mitigating the impacts of runoff. Through the implementation of ‘green infrastructure’ and innovative stormwater design, stormwater is captured and treated, restoring natural landscapes and preserving water quality. The primary objective of stormwater management is to detain and treat stormwater, effectively removing pollutants before discharge. The City of Annapolis is actively implementing municipal stormwater management practices across the City.

“Pervious surfaces and gray infrastructure, such as culverts, gutters, storm sewers, conventional piped drainage, and green infrastructure all work together to protect, restore, or mimic the natural water cycle,” remarks Rossberg, Stormwater Engineer for The City of Annapolis. “It all plays a part in effective stormwater management.”

However, the City can only address public, or municipal lands. Water from private communities with outdated stormwater management systems often runs rapidly into storm drains and drainage ditches. This runoff overflows into streams, rivers, and lakes. On the way, it picks up pesticides, road salts, heavy metals, oils, bacteria, and other harmful pollutants that flush into our natural waterways.

The Fairwinds Condominium Community of Annapolis

The Fairwinds of Annapolis Community was designed and built in the 1970s, well before the research showed how disastrous unmitigated stormwater runoff could be. The designs of the day included large areas of impervious paved surfaces, from parking and playgrounds to picnic areas and tennis courts. Here rainwater flows across hard surfaces before heading into storm drains. When excess water flows rapidly rather than soaking gradually into the earth, it clogs the storm drains and causes flooding, erosion, and infrastructure damage.

Laura Vykol, a former Fairwinds Condominiums resident and board member, witnessed the damage inflicted by flooding in her community. “In 2019, we saw many heavy storms, and residents who never experienced water issues sustained extensive structural damage to their homes.” She started to investigate and found many of the water management systems were grossly outdated. “They were designed and built in the 1970s and did not have climate change in mind and thus were repeatedly overwhelmed by flooding.”

In 2022, Laura led the Fairwinds of Annapolis Community, working with Charles P. Johnson & Associates (CPJ), in receiving a grant to design stormwater management practices through the Chesapeake Bay Trust’s Watershed Assistance Grant Program.

Once the design of the stormwater management practices was completed, Laura decided to reach out to the City of Annapolis about the funding opportunities available to implement the practices through the Anne Arundel County Watershed Restoration Grant Program. Mike Rossberg inspected the community’s issues. “Stormwater does not discriminate. After all, water runoff doesn’t follow subdivision or community boundaries,” comments Rossberg.

Garden Girls Landscaping of Annapolis has been contracted to install the stormwater management system. “The practical pieces of the garden are installed underground, but there is no reason for the garden not to be beautiful as well as practical, too,” Gardens Girls Landscaping owner Loni Moyer states. “We care deeply about the health of the Bay, and we are excited about the potential amount of water this system will treat and clean before it enters our local waterways.”

Public Awareness

Stormwater management systems may be misunderstood or even underappreciated by the public. However, they are crucial for maintaining water quality and preventing flooding in urban settings.

An essential aspect of stormwater management involves educating and mobilizing the public. Laura can relate. She was met with some confusion from her fellow Fairwinds Community residents when presenting the stormwater management proposal. “It was challenging to get folks to accept that these plans were for more than just a simple garden,” she recalls. “Residents and board members also at first did not understand the costs, and that a grant from the City could foot the bill.”

However, Laura worked diligently to convince them that the proposed stormwater management actions would significantly prevent future flooding and eliminate resulting property damage. Despite moving from the Fairwinds Community, Laura helped submit the grant proposal, which was awarded in June of 2023. She continues to manage the project which includes the disconnection of rain leaders and redirection of water from flat, concrete roofs towards a submerged gravel wetland and a bioretention pond. Disconnecting downspouts leading to impervious surfaces and redirecting them to stormwater management systems like bioretention ponds can significantly reduce runoff volume.

“The most satisfying part of projects like these is how much residents appreciate the changes once they see a beautiful garden. Further, the use of native plants and flowers enriches the local eco-system by encouraging pollinators and supporting wildlife,” says Moyer.

Moreover, Rossberg stresses how impactful private community projects can be. “The City loves projects like this one in the Fairwinds Community. We can only do so much when it comes to upgrading municipal stormwater management practices. There is so much privately held property in and around Annapolis.”

The harmonization of private and public stormwater systems can significantly reduce excess runoff and improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Rossberg emphasizes, “Continued public awareness and education campaigns can positively sway community behavior. We hope to see more communities, like Fairwinds, apply for funding for stormwater management.”


Click here to view the Fairwinds project design plans.

Click here to learn more about the Anne Arundel County Watershed Restoration Grant Program. 

Click here for more information about downspout disconnection.

The Asbury-Broadneck United Methodist Church Restoration Project Keeps Historic Cemetery Safe from Stormwater Runoff

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By Chante Goodger,
Chesapeake Bay Trust Spring Semester Intern

Headstones would float as the stormwater runoff flowed from an uphill park into the historic African American church’s cemetery, where civil war soldiers as well as Harriet Tubman’s descendants are buried.

This has come to an end at the Asbury-Broadneck United Methodist Church (ABUMC) cemetery in Annapolis, Maryland. The Chesapeake Bay Trust, through the Anne Arundel County Watershed Restoration Grant program, awarded ABUMC and project partner the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay funding so that they would be able to finally fix the issue. “The historical and cultural context of this project make it that much more unique and important as it reflects a direct-action response to embracing environmental restoration and diversity and inclusion in natural resource management,” said Randy Rowel, Jr., Asbury Broadneck United Methodist Church Stormwater Disciple.

According to Abbi Huntzinger, Maryland Restoration Program Manager for the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, “This project was truly transdisciplinary project approach with engineers, landscape architects, and also archeologists in case there were remains found during construction.”

Restorative work began in November 2018 and has been completed; with a unique step pool conveyance system, an imbricated channel, and one more step pool that drains out into a mowed wetland which was originally a grass wetland. “The church members did the planting,” said Ms. Huntzinger. And to do so, church members sought certification through the Anne Arundel County Watershed Stewards Academy. Additionally, the church funded and built the bridge entrance to the cemetery grounds.

In fact, before the current church was built there was another church which burned down during a fire in the 1900’s. “All of the burial records of who was buried here were lost in the fire,” says Ms. Huntzinger.  Consequently, that made it difficult to pinpoint where the restorative team would site the project without disturbing the “forever residents of the cemetery.”

As a  further preventative, the restoration team upgraded existing stormwater management practices at the Broadneck Park so that the stormwater would filter through the larger stones and the smaller stones, in the swale. The rocks in the swale prevented the water from running off into a nearby house’s backyard which led into the cemetery.

The area is now thriving with thousands of tadpoles, dragon flies, wetland plants and the grave sites are secure as you walk around the historic African American church grounds. “This project is about planting seeds in our community to show them the great positive aspects of connecting with nature, restoring nature, and preserving our communities of colors legacy,” remarked Mr. Rowel.

In 2017, the Capital Gazette newspaper covered the origination of the project and interviewed church members on their incredible efforts to solve the problem. Read the full story here.

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