Stormwater park advances

Published 4:45 pm Saturday, November 14, 2009

A project long in the making has been progressing the last few weeks in Albert Lea.

At the future stormwater park near East Main Street, crews have installed various types of porous pavements for a sidewalk and the land has been graded.

These are two of the first steps into the project, being called the Albert Lea Main Street Stormwater Park, which is intended to treat some stormwater, while mostly providing an educational showpiece for the Shell Rock River Watershed District.

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When completed, it will showcase stormwater management techniques of rain gardens, stormwater ponds and pervious concrete, pavers and bituminous sidewalks.

The project, which is under a partnership with the city of Albert Lea and the Watershed District, is costing roughly $150,000, with some of the materials being donated, said Andy Henschel, Watershed field technician.

City Engineer Steven Jahnke said the Watershed is essentially paying for a majority of the project, while the city is donating a lot of time and material.

As of Friday, all the grading and paving was mostly completed, and seeding will be done in the next week.

The grass is of a shorter variation that won’t need to be mowed, Henschel said.

During 2010, most of the planting of vegetation will be done.

In 2006, the city started purchasing property at the site, which is in a floodplain, through a partnership with the state Department of Natural Resources. In 2007, the former Union Center was torn down, and in 2008, the former Moose Lodge was demolished.

Last fall, the city and Watershed started to lay out plans for the park, and this September they started digging, Jahnke said.

The first phase of the project is intended to decrease flooding by diverting water from clogged storm sewers and routing it through a settling pond, prairie meadow and floodplain forest. There will also be educational displays in the park that people can view while walking along the trail.

Henschel said it will be a place where citizens and business owners can get ideas for what they can do at their own homes or businesses for stormwater control.

Jahnke said the park will also be a place where people can walk to from the downtown. Eventually there will be picnic tables, and the long-term goal is to connect the trail to the area known as the channel and eventually the Blazing Star Trail.

Kyle Skov, with the city Engineering Department, said the project will have an improvement on the water quality from the smaller storms.

“It should help with the flash flooding over near Godfather’s,” Jahnke said. “It’s not going to solve it, but it should help.”

He said it will probably take two years for all the vegetation to grow where it should be.

The second phase of the project, which will be completed down the road, involves additional rain gardens, which can soak up and release runoff into the stormwater system created in the first phase.

In the second phase, it is also planned to introduce sculpture and possibly a historic train car.

When the entire project is completed, the park will not only treat stormwater, but it will also provide environmental and historical education and create cultural and recreational opportunities.

The idea is being tossed around to put up a statue that depicts the horse race of how Albert Lea was picked as the Freeborn County seat, Jahnke said.

The train car would explain why the rail has been important to Albert Lea.