BOLIVAR — On Thursday night, residents of Bolivar and Harpers Ferry gathered in the Bolivar Community Center for a presentation on new green infrastructure that would help the two towns deal with stormwater.

The meeting was led by Samuel Rich, a project manager and landscape architect with The Thrasher Group, who was a major part of conducting research on areas of concern within the town, coming up with potential plans that the communities could look to get funded and built.

“We’ve really tried to take a comprehensive approach to the issues,” Rich said. “We’ve also asked the community to identify issues.”

In their current state, Bolivar and Harpers Ferry are both in need of ways to drain stormwater from streets and sidewalks as storms get worse with climate change. Right now, there is very little infrastructure for dealing with stormwater, which can lead to localized flooding of lower areas, as well as damage to streets and sidewalks.

The options presented by The Thrasher Group primarily center around replacing impermeable surfaces, like many paved sidewalks and roads, with ones that would let stormwater drain through and adding areas for stormwater to go that would not only be useful but also add to the towns aesthetically.

“This is the panel of options, the toolkit that we could use to solve these problems,” said Storm DiCostanzo, a member of the Harpers Ferry Town Council.

One of the major ideas presented was the construction of rain gardens in areas of concern throughout the towns. When it’s built for dealing with stormwater, a rain garden is filled with deep-rooted plants that improve the soil’s ability to soak up water, capturing and cleaning stormwater while slowly infiltrating the water into the ground below.

In addition to rain gardens, bioswales and rooftop gardens can be constructed to channel stormwater to outlet structures, as well as into more rain gardens or existing drain systems. They can also serve as an aesthetic tool to allow for more green spaces in the towns.

Another option is to rework the old sidewalks to cover Silva Cells, which would create spaces under the sidewalks allowing for the storage of stormwater and allowing tree roots to grow around them, stopping the roots from buckling sidewalks and allowing them to grow freely and get the nutrients they need to grow larger and live longer. The construction of Silva Cells requires the sidewalks above to be made permeable by water. Previously, The Thrasher Group conducted a project in Berkeley Springs to add Silva Cells underneath sidewalks.

The next step for Bolivar and Harpers Ferry is to come up with a plan for which of these projects to go through with and apply for funding, which could take years between finding funding, getting permits and doing construction.

Landscape Architecture 

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Tom Markland Tmarkland@journal-news.net