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Greenscapes to mitigate water pollution

Greenfield to implement two projects to clean runoff

Recorder/Paul Franz
A new water runoff collection area and planting is planned for the space behind the  Greenfield Public Library.

Recorder/Paul Franz A new water runoff collection area and planting is planned for the space behind the Greenfield Public Library.

GREENFIELD — With $268,500 in state funding, the town plans to pretreat dirty stormwater runoff that now heads directly into an underground brook that feeds the Green River.

The project, using “low-impact” techniques to manage runoff behind the Greenfield Public Library and in the Chapman Street parking lot, would be achieved by adding a landscaped tree belt to the two-acre parking area and also extending the small “rain garden” area built behind the library a couple of years ago.

The area behind the library would also include a community education component, with signs, a permeable surface walkway and seating, all of which could be used for library and school programming, say planners and others who have been developing the idea for years.

Franklin Regional Council of Governments is working with the town on the projects.

The state Department of Environmental Protection announced the $218,500 in funding toward the $595,600 overall project, matched by an additional $50,000 coming from the Massachusetts Environmental Trust as well as $300,000 appropriated by the town for revamping the Chapman Street lot, said COG Natural Resources Planner Kimberly Noake MacPhee.

“I’m very excited about this,” said MacPhee, who worked with Greenfield Library Trustees and the Greenfield Planning Department on the projects, which she said fit in well with the town’s ongoing Sustainable Master Plan. “The town had plans to work on the parking lot, and this is a great opportunity to include bioretention areas for pretreatment of stormwater runoff that now runs directly into the Maple Brook culvert.”

Town Engineering Superintendent Sara Campbell, who has developed a draft design for the Chapman Street lot, said some of its drains run directly into the “huge stone box” — 5 feet by 6 feet in some places — that feeds water untreated into the river.

The “ecological parking lot improvement design,” which was incorporated into the town’s planning a year and a half ago, would provide for planted “bio-swales” to slow and filter stormwater with salt-tolerant grasses and herbaceous vegetation before the water runs into raised storm drains.

“The concept is to put a little island in the middle and collect some water there when it rains, and also at the bottom (of the grade in the lot) where we now have some green space,” she said.

By adding a little more landscaping, with a better design, she said, “You’ll just have a little dip, where the trees sit below the street (level). It just runs through there like a happy brook would have years ago, in miniature.”

With help from tree roots and more vegetation,” she said, “it’s just a natural process, instead of letting things dump in” the river.

Library demo

The “demonstration gardens” behind the library would show examples of different techniques for managing stormwater that now runs downhill and collects in a corner near the adjacent bank parking lot. Still to be designed with the community involvement, the area behind the library could make better use of the unused land, with trees, a butterfly garden, benches for lunchtime gathering and library activities, and maybe even a raised bed-garden as part of a community-use space, said MacPhee and library trustee Paul Gorecki.

“We’ve always wanted to do something in that back area,” said Gorecki, who spearheaded the rain garden idea four years ago after learning of it from a friend at the Massachusetts Watershed Coalition. The existing structure, built with help from the town Department of Public Works, Friends of the Greenfield Library and labor from jail inmates, has diverted some of the runoff, but it was originally designed as part of a more elaborate system that he says will be “very durable and enduring,” while requiring little maintenance.

The town’s Greening Greenfield Committee and the Deerfield River Watershed Association plan to develop an informational campaign, dubbed “Think Green, Go Blue” to show how different landscape approaches can help protect the river from untreated stormwater runoff.

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You can reach Richie Davis at
or 413-772-0261, Ext. 269

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