By Mary Maushard
The Port of Baltimore has partnered with the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore on stormwater projects to stop erosion, provide a hospitable habitat for local wildlife and improve the quality of water that flows into the Jones Falls and ultimately into the Chesapeake Bay.
Completed in early spring, these projects tackled two long-unmet needs at the Zoo — a way to collect and filter water from the parking lots and roads near the Zoo’s main entrance, and restoration of a seriously eroded stream.
The Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Port Administration (MDOT MPA), along with the Maryland Environmental Service (MES), teamed up with the Zoo to upgrade these two areas. The Port provided funding for the projects and hired the engineers and contractors. MES staff oversaw the construction.
“The Port was really very generous in helping us solve these problems,” said Karl Kranz, Executive Vice President for Animal Programs and Chief Operating Officer of the Maryland Zoo.
The new bioretention area near the Zoo’s main entrance replaces a grassy field with a pond containing a special soil mix and gravel bed that helps filter out pollutants. The water drains through it into underground pipes on its way to Waterfowl Lake, a small, largely unused lake that once was a reservoir for drinking water, Kranz explained.
The second part of the project tackled a badly eroded stream that previously allowed water to gush down it and threatened the integrity of a nearby service road. Through a series of step pools built with boulders, cobbles, sand and woodchips, the restored stream now has a cascading effect that slows down rain water. At each level, the water is filtered through soil to remove sediment and impurities.
“I think we hit it out of the park” with the stream, said Kranz. In addition to cleaning stormwater and reducing erosion, Kranz considers the restored stream attractive to many of the Zoo’s visitors. “It’s my hope that the public finds it interesting to look at,” he said and that the frogs, toads, turtles and other creatures that frequent the Zoo will enjoy the improved habitat.
Besides, “anything we can do to take the load off the Jones Falls and the Port is good,” Kranz added.
The undertaking is not only the Port’s first partnership with the Zoo, but also its first stream restoration, said Bill Richardson, MDOT MPA’s Manager of Safety, Environment and Risk Management. “We are very excited to partner with the Zoo. We hope that these projects will help educate the local community about the importance of keeping our waterways clean,” he said.
To help with that, each project will have a marker with a graphic description of how the stormwater measures work and why they are important. “MDOT MPA is committed to growing the Port sustainably. That means taking responsibility for clean water, air and land,” Richardson said.