Wheaton Green Streets Efforts Expand

Ed Murtagh - July 13, 2012

During the past year, the Parks, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Department of Transportation have made progress in implementing their Green Streets initiatives in Wheaton communities.

One highly visible DEP/DOT initiative is the Green Streets projects along Dennis Avenue. Green streets are roads that use specially engineered vegetated areas designed to capture and spread out stormwater runoff (called Low Impact Development (LID) practices). The polluted and often hot stormwater runoff then soaks into the ground where it is cleansed and cooled down as it filters through microbe-filled soil. So instead of rushing off Dennis Ave and damaging Sligo Creek’s stream banks, the rain water will enter Sligo Creek slowly as cool, clean ground water.

Mark Wilcox, the DEP Project Manager for the project, explained that the Dennis Ave. Green Streets project is one of the joint DEP/Dept. of Transportation (DOT) pilot projects that are being used to demonstrate the feasibility of fast tracking green street projects in the county. The stormwater management practices along Dennis Avenue are designed to manage the runoff from 40 acres of land (of which 12 acres are hard, impervious surfaces like roads, roofs and driveways).

Outreach and education of the surrounding community are important components of this initiative. Earlier this year, the surrounding community had an opportunity to learn about the green streets project and to ask questions and comment on what is being proposed. Unlike the earlier and larger DEP stormwater management projects, which required a lengthy and expensive permit review cycle, these projects will be smaller scale and implemented in close collaboration with DOT. The Dennis Ave project includes the use of tree boxes, bioretention systems, swale curb extensions, and a series of step pools.

In addition to the DOT/DEP projects, the county Parks staffs have been working on reducing the environmental impacts of roads too. Nearby, Sligo Creek Parkway is being modified to reduce the amount of hard road surfaces along Sligo Creek. At Colt Terrace Local Park near Arcola Elementary School, the park staff is installing a bio-swale to manage and clean up the stormwater runoff from Colt Terrace. Both of these projects are but two of several they are working on to help restore Sligo Creek and the Anacostia River. The County’s 5 year Stormwater Permit (the permit is required by the Clean Water Act) requires that Montgomery County install stormwater management practices to treat runoff from 20% of the county’s hard impervious surfaces.

DEP is working out the details for a Maintenance Plan for the green street projects. So far green street projects have been installed on Arcola Ave. and in the Forest Estates community. This fall, if all goes well, DEP is also planning green streets projects on Amherst Ave. and additional projects on Arcola Ave near the Wheaton Library. Below are some useful links if you are interested in learning more about these innovative projects:

The Dennis Ave. Health Center has examples of tree boxes and bioretention systems. Click here to see what they look like and how bioretention systems are built www.fosc.org/SWMap5.htm

If you are interested in what happens to the stormwater runoff from the Wheaton CBD, see link www.fosc.org/SWMap7.htm about the stormwater ponds off Dennis Ave. which capture most of the runoff from the Wheaton Central Business District.

Green Streets are part of a larger effort to restore our streams and improve our communities. On July 17, Friends of Sligo Creek will hold a program meeting on Greening Suburban Towns & Houses of Worship. A representative from DEP will attend to talk about its Green Streets initiative. Hear how the town of Forest Heights, MD. uses innovative green strategies to help restore the Oxon Run watershed and how Silver Spring houses of worship are being encouraged to do the same. The meeting will be held in the Silver Spring Civic Building.


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