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Project Corner: Whitehall Road Regional Park

We are proud to highlight this month’s featured project, Whitehall Road Regional Park Master Plan.  Located in Centre County, near State College, this future regional park is designed with sustainability and accessibility in mind.  The final master plan reflects the following project goals:

  • Environment – Conserve and enhance natural conditions and features.
  • Community – Respond to conditions and needs of adjacent and regional community.
  • Program – Accommodate a logical mix and quantity of park uses.
  • Economics – Maximize relationship between cost and benefits to community.
  • Identity – Create a dignified and beautiful park space that improves over time.
The 100-acre park has to meet the growing demand for sports fields, while also accommodating those more interested in passive recreation such as walking, picnicking, and gardening.  The master plan includes soccer fields, softball and baseball fields, tennis courts, a football field, a lacrosse field, playgrounds, picnic shelters, walking trails, open space play, a dog park, and community gardens.  The existing site is open with dramatic distant views. The park is organized to respond to these conditions by creating a rectilinear pattern of outdoor rooms that connect directly to the adjacent agricultural context.  Proposed rows of trees extend the existing forest block to provide a pattern for the roads, walkways and athletic fields.
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Proposed stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs) include rain gardens, permeable paving, vegetated swales, infiltration trenches, vegetated buffer strips, green roofs, and cisterns to name a few. The key is to work with natural ecological processes instead of against them.
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Located at the bottom of the hill, this cistern collects extra runoff for use in the community gardens
Located at the bottom of the hill, this cistern collects extra runoff for use in the community gardens

Rain Garden Myths

When people first learn about the term “rain garden”, they often have pre-conceived notions about them.  For example, some people begin visualizing a big hole in the ground that fills up with water and can be dangerous for kids.  We would like to clear the air about the following myths:

Rain Gardens are More Maintenance
Rain gardens require no more maintenance than your typical planting bed.  In fact, many common plants that are used around your home can be used in rain gardens.  Using native plants will reduce the amount of maintenance compared to non-natives.  It all depends on the types of plants you specify.

Rain Gardens Create More Flooding
My neighbor asked me once about whether the rain garden I installed in my own backyard would create more flooding in his yard and basement.  I quickly reassured him that unless I secretly piped my overflow into his yard, he would not have any flooding because of my rain garden.  A good overflow plan is important for preventing extra water from going where you don’t want it to go.

Rain Gardens Harbor Mosquitoes

Rain gardens are designed to hold water for up to 48 hours, which is not long enough for mosquitoes to breed.

Rain Gardens are Detention Basins, Ponds, or Wetlands
Rain gardens are none of the above.  They are similar in that they help store stormwater runoff.  However, they are dry most of the time and are not as deep as detention basins.

Rain Gardens Create a Liability
We’ve run into clients that do not want rain gardens because they believe they are a liability.  “Some kid is going to fall in and drown in a few inches of water that may accumulate during a storm event”.  Well, we strongly believe the benefits far outweigh the risk.  In fact, numerous schools around the country have promoted and used rain gardens as educational tools.  Below are just a few examples of rain gardens planted in public spaces or on school properties:

Mount Tabor Middle School – Portland, Oregon (photo by Kevin Robert Perry)
Mount Tabor Middle School – Portland, Oregon (photo by Kevin Robert Perry)
Highpoint - Seattle, Washington (photo by Juan Hernandez Mithum)
Highpoint – Seattle, Washington (photo by Juan Hernandez Mithum)

Neuva School - Hillsborough, California (photo by Andrea Cochran)
Neuva School – Hillsborough, California (photo by Andrea Cochran)

NE Siskiyou Street - Portland, Oregon (photo by Kevin Robert Perry)

NE Siskiyou Street – Portland, Oregon (photo by Kevin Robert Perry)