Swale of a job Lititz aquifer project a model for smart growth

By on March 1, 2012

By: STEPHEN SEEBER Record Express Staff, Staff Writer

Stormwater management. The subject is rarely a hot topic for the local gossip crowd, but it is a fundamental smart growth practice that has quietly put Lititz on the map of how development should be conducted.

At least that’s how the Lancaster County Planning Commission sees Lititz’s handling of a critical aquifer recharge area restoration project at Butterfly Acres, a community development near the public library.

Through a collaborative effort of the borough’s Flood Control Committee, Landstudies Inc. and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, the four-year effort transformed an existing stormwater swale into a low maintenance, natural area with both environmental and community benefits.

Last month, the county’s planning commission gave Lititz one of five achievement awards during its annual Envision Leadership banquet in Columbia, recognizing Butterfly Acres as having "attributes that we’d like to see replicated in projects throughout the county," according to LCPC executive director James R. Cowhey.

This week, during the Feb. 28 borough council meeting, Lititz’s unsung heroes were in the spotlight.

"It’s not very often that a stormwater project rises to this level," said borough council president Karen Weibel, beaming with pride as she touted the volunteer work of Lititz’s Flood Control Committee.

"You toil in the background and no one knows what you do," she added. "Bravo!"

"It’s a privilege," said Gladys Crowl, one of three committee members on hand for Tuesday night’s award announcement in council chambers. "I feel we’ve done a lot in the borough."

Crowl was joined by her fellow committee members Sid Long and Jimmy Kreider (of Landstudies) at the meeting.

Kreider offered a brief explanation of the project during Tuesday night’s meeting, and pointed out that it is a perfect example of how a community should work together to turn a problem area into an asset.

"This project has multiple layers of benefits," Weibel added. "On the surface, the project created a unique natural area and reduces damaging storm flows, while providing the hidden benefits of significant groundwater recharge."

Weibel also pointed out that since the borough adopted a Flood Control Committee in 1987, fewer streets seem to be closed after heavy rainfalls. In September, after seven inches of rain fell in a short amount of time during Tropical Storm Lee, only one borough street had to be closed to traffic, and only for several hours.

The projects, she said, are paying off.

Butterfly Acres is located on a Critical Aquifer Recharge Area (CARA). These areas were identified in northern Lancaster County as part of a Susquehanna River Basin Commission study conducted in 2002 to determine the water budget for the aquifer. These areas contain unique geological characteristics that allow for substantial groundwater recharge. Infiltration trenches were installed at the project site to restore the connection between surface and groundwater, stormwater runoff was reduced, and enhanced soils and a vibrant native plant community filter surface water runoff, thus improving water quality.

Much of northern Lancaster County relies on groundwater for potable water use, therefore restoration and protection of CARAs is important, borough council stated in a press release issued Tuesday night.

The 2,300 foot long restored natural area is located between South Cedar Street and Kissel Hill Road, and signage along a pedestrian walkway was recently installed for community education.

"The award winners truly exemplify what it means to achieve smart growth in our communities," said county commissioner and former Lititz Borough Council president Dennis Stuckey during last month’s award banquet.

The award is now on display at Lititz Borough Hall. More LITITZ BOROUGH, page A16

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