Tree trench

With help from Residents, Point Breeze Vacant Lot Is Becoming a River-Protecting Green Space

Point Breeze Cleanup & Block Party - June 2017

After two hot hours of picking up trash, weed-whacking, and sweeping at a vacant lot in Point Breeze, PowerCorps PHL’s Desmon Richardson, on hand with fellow crew members to bring some added muscle to the effort, suggested lining the small, triangular space with unused rocks from a pile sitting in the middle of the site.

Neighbors who’d been helping agreed: the natural-looking border was the perfect finishing touch for the renewed lot, concluding a sticky Saturday morning spent cleaning up the local eyesore.

Members of the Philadelphia Water Department’s Public Engagement team joined the local non-profit Diversified Community Services and area block captains on June 10 to clean the publicly-owned lot at Point Breeze Avenue and Mifflin Street—the future home of a rain garden that will soak up stormwater and bring regular maintenance to the site through Philadelphia’s Green City, Clean Waters program.

Similar efforts in other neighborhoods have led to dramatic improvements at formerly nuisance-plagued lots, something locals are hoping to repeat here.

Evapotranspiration Explained: 'Invisible Flying Rivers'

This diagram shows how trees move water from the soil to the air, creating what one NPR source describes as "massive, invisible flying rivers." Image Credit: Philadelphia Water
This diagram shows how trees move water from the soil to the air, creating what one NPR source describes as "massive, invisible flying rivers." Image Credit: Philadelphia Water

Evapotranspiration.

It’s a mouthful alright. But it’s also a word we often use when trying to explain how Green City, Clean Waters and green stormwater infrastructure helps the city manage excess water we get from storms.

It’s a pretty abstract concept, but Antonio Nobre, one of Brazil’s leading climate scientists, described the impact of evapotranspiration in a very cool way while talking to NPR’s Lourdes Garcia-Navarro in early November:

Urban Trees: Study Says They're Really, Really Good for Us

Soak It Up! Adoption volunteers take care of street trees in an East Falls bumpout. Stormwater street trees, tree trenches, and rain gardens are just some of our green tools that commonly incorporate trees. Photo credit: Philadelphia Water.
Soak It Up! Adoption volunteers take care of street trees in an East Falls bumpout. Stormwater tree planters, tree trenches, and rain gardens are just some of our green tools that commonly incorporate trees. Photo credit: Philadelphia Water.

We came across an interesting read recently that looks at a study in Toronto that sought to determine the economic and health benefits associated with trees in urban settings. Here's a summary of the study that appeared in a July 23 New Yorker article titled "How Trees Calm Us Down":

"... a new study in the journal Scientific Reports by a team of researchers in the United States, Canada, and Australia, led by the University of Chicago psychology professor Marc Berman ... compares two large data sets from the city of Toronto, both gathered on a block-by-block level; the first measures the distribution of green space, as determined from satellite imagery and a comprehensive list of all five hundred and thirty thousand trees planted on public land, and the second measures health, as assessed by a detailed survey of ninety-four thousand respondents. After controlling for income, education, and age, Berman and his colleagues showed that an additional ten trees on a given block corresponded to a one-per-cent increase in how healthy nearby residents felt."

One percent? Doesn't sound like much, does it? But here's the quote that blew us out of the water:

"To get an equivalent increase with money, you’d have to give each household in that neighborhood ten thousand dollars—or make people seven years younger," Berman told the article's author, Alex Hutchinson.

Who wouldn't like to get their hands on an $10,000, let alone feel seven years younger?
Because so many of our Green City, Clean Waters projects use trees to either help soak up stormwater or improve overall renovations, this study made us wonder just how many new trees Green City, Clean Waters is bringing to the city.
Here's what we found:

Status

SMP* Trees

Non SMP Trees

New Trees

Constructed

1085

740

1825

Designed

150

96

246

In Construction

99

47

146

Total

1334

883

2217


"SMP" stands for Stormwater Management Practice. Note: because the "designed" figure could change, this should be considered an estimate.

That's a lot of trees, right? And, by the calculations of this study, if there's just one household for every 10 Green City, Clean Waters trees, they would be making those households feel a collective 1,552 years younger or $2,217,000 ($2.2 million) richer. Of course, there are many more households than that in the neighborhoods improved by Green City, Clean Waters trees, so the exact benefits are much harder to tally. But the impact is clearly huge. 

That's just in the first four years of the 25-year Green City, Clean Waters plan. We still have another two decades of greening ahead of us, and we're really looking forward to a much greener Philly with even healthier rivers in 2036!

Northeast Residents Learn About New Green Sites

How a tree trench works. Click for more.
This diagram shows how a tree trench like the one planned for Moss Park collects and filters water before slowly releasing it into the ground. Click for more info.

Philadelphia Water held two community meetings in the Northeast in late August to talk about upcoming Green City, Clean Waters projects. Both projects will bring green infrastructure tools that manage stormwater to neighborhood recreation areas—the Max Myers Playground at Busleton and Magee avenues and Moss Park at Torresdale and Cheltenham avenues.

The Max Myers meeting was held Aug. 21 and covered plans for improvements to the park area and nearby streets that include two rain gardens and a stormwater storage basin beneath an existing baseball diamond. In addition to managing stormwater from the surrounding streets to address sewer overflows, the rain gardens will beautify the park with landscaping that includes plants and shrubs. Park users will also get a brand-new baseball diamond after the storage basin is complete.

Philadelphia Parks and Recreation is a partner for both projects, and Take Back Your Neighborhood, Councilwoman Quinones-Sanchez and Councilman Bobby Henon helped spread word about the Max Myers meeting.

The Moss Park meeting was held Aug. 24, and current plans include managing stormwater from nearby streets through the use of a tree trench featuring 16 new trees. As currently planned, the project will include replacing a weathered sidewalk along Ditman Street. The Moss improvements also include two new rain gardens, a new path, and an underground stormwater storage basin.
The Aug. 24 meeting was held with the help of Councilman Henon, Parks and Recreation, and the Wissinoming Civic Association.

Because the projects are still in the early planning phase, these meetings focused on getting feedback from residents and potential construction start dates aren’t yet available. Stay tuned at Phillywatersheds.org for more updates and look for invites for the next round of meetings about this project.

Community Gets Updates on North Phila. Green Improvements

This illustration shows how stormwater tree trenches, an important tool in the Green City, Clean Waters plan, work. Plans are under way to install these tools in the neighborhood around Fotterall Square and Vandergrift/Danny Boyle Park. Credit: Philadelphia Water.
This illustration shows how stormwater tree trenches, an important tool in the Green City, Clean Waters plan, work. Plans are under way to install these tools in the neighborhood around Fotterall Square and Vandergrift/Danny Boyle Park. Credit: Philadelphia Water.

The Hope Partnership for Education and other community members in North Philadelphia got an update on Green City, Clean Waters improvements planned for their area during the Hope Community Day celebration on Saturday, July 25.

The event, held with the help of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), the Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM), the Community Design Collaborative, Temple University, the 22nd Police District and Youthbuild Philadelphia Charter School, shed light on a number of initiatives to improve the community.

Philadelphia Water gave an update on the city-wide Green City, Clean Waters plan, which was introduced in 2011, and presented plans to install green stormwater tools around Fotterall Square, Vandergrift/Danny Boyle Park, and nearby streets. Because the improvements will impact the park, we’re working closely with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation to make this plan a success.

Designs for the local improvements began to take shape in January, 2015 and are scheduled to be completed by the end of the year. As this was the very first Hope Community Day, we were very proud to be a part of the festivities and were excited to see so much interest in greening projects.

The plans discussed on July 25 currently call for creating stormwater tree trenches in the following locations:

• Cumberland Street from 12th to 11th

• 12th Street from York to Cumberland

• York Street from 12th to 11th

• 11th Street from York to Cumberland

• Cumberland Street from 11th to 10th

• York Street from 10th to 9th

• Cumberland Street from Germantown Avenue to 9th Street

• 9th Street from Germantown Avenue to Cumberland

• York Street from 9th to Germantown Avenue

• Susquehanna Avenue from Franklin to 7th Street

• York Street from 8th Street to 7th Street

As a part of the presentation, members of the community learned how the tree trenches will help reduce sewer overflows by taking in stormwater during rain or snow storms and slowly releasing into the ground.
The project will also include a rain garden or infiltration basin at Vandergrift/Danny Boyle Park, located at York Street and Germantown Avenue, which will further help to reduce stormwater that may overwhelm sewers.

Thanks again to Hope for hosting the event and to everyone who came out! Philadelphia Water will continue to update the community as the plan moves forward, and we’ll post information about progress here on the Philly Watersheds blog.

Syndicate content