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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.

Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church Reforests Woodlands

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By Kristina Arreza
Chesapeake Bay Trust Communications Intern

On an overcast Thursday morning, volunteers from the Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church (WMPC) in Severna Park, Maryland, prepared for the planting of 176 native trees, shrubs, and plants across the church’s woodlands by digging all of the holes and placing all plants into their properly assigned locations. Located between Sunset Assisted Living and WMPC, this Anne Arundel Watershed Stewardship Capstone Project is led by Steward candidate Frank Goetschius (pictured left with Bob Royer, WMPC Property Management). The volunteers included members of the REHABS (REtired HAndyperson Breakfast Society) as well as the gardener’s group from the church.

On the designated planting day, more than 75 volunteers showed up representing more than 12 community organizations including the Magothy River Association, the Watershed Stewards Academy (WSA), Baywise volunteers, Maryland Master Gardeners, Severna Park High School, Broadneck High School, Boy Scouts Troop 339, Girl Scouts Troop 184, local community gardening clubs, and multiple WMPC church groups. With the help of Watershed Steward Alison Milligan as their advisor, the volunteers were able to reforest the woodlands with native trees, such as Red Oak, Chestnut Oak, Red Maple, American Holly, Redbud, Flowering Dogwood, and Sweet Bay Magnolia alongside the existing Elm, Oak, Sweet Gum, and Black Gum trees. These new plantings will aid in the reforestation process by returning the woodland to when the church was founded 100 years ago. “The goal is to promote vegetation, maximize diversity of forestry, and create a lush area that will be a resource for wildlife,” said Mr. Goetschius. The tree planting project is intended to prevent stormwater runoff from entering onto roadways and into storm drains the directly flow into Cypress Creek on the Magothy.

“Earlier this year, Woods Church launched its “Woods has Gone Native “ initiative, planting hundreds of native, pollinator-friendly plants in the church grounds bringing about a remarkable transformation with the return of numerous butterflies and bees,” said Mr. Bob Royer. “You have to care for the creation around you by planting the native trees and plants that support the populations of birds, butterflies, and other pollinators.”  The members of the church gardening group made labels to help the public who visit become familiar with the diversity of native plants available so they can plant these in their own gardens.

This project was funded by the Trust’s Anne Arundel County Community Planting Mini-Grant Program. In partnership with the Anne Arundel County Forest Conservancy District Board, the program funds tree planting and tree canopies in communities, neighborhoods, and parks throughout Anne Arundel County. The goal of this grant fits perfectly with the WMPC’s project; to raise awareness of the health of our region, tree canopy, watersheds, air quality, streams, rivers, and the Bay. Additional organizations such as Unity Gardens and WSA have also provided grants to make this project possible. WMPC was certified by the University of Maryland Extension Baywise Program in 2018, a program that teaches simple, bay-friendly lawn and gardening practices so homeowners can help preserve the land and waterways within the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  The project will be completed by mid-October.

Watch this fantastic video coverage by Chesapeake Bay Magazine in a recent Bay Bulletin story here.

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