By Kat Sawyer
Did you know that the Richmond Greenway is part of the Rails-to-Trails network, where old railway land is converted to greenspace across the country? What was once a right-of-way for the Santa Fe Railroad is now a pedestrian and bike trail for Richmond residents. Local nonprofits have adopted parts of the Richmond Greenway to create gardens and parks that provide an urban oasis where people can walk and ride bikes through the city apart from busy streets. The Watershed Project has played a role in the transformation of the greenway over the years creating swales and rain gardens, and our latest endeavor is close to completion. TWP’s Iron Triangle Urban Greening project is an add-on to Unity Park, the community-driven public park that has recently been constructed at 16th Street on the greenway.
The Watershed Project’s Iron Triangle Urban Greening project (ITUG) stretches from 16th – 20th Streets on the greenway and features an engineered bioswale to manage stormwater runoff in a more natural way. When it rains, water flows down the streets into drains and pipes that run along the edge the greenway. ITUG’s green infrastructure aims to slow that water down and provide areas for it to percolate into the ground instead of being piped to the Bay. Swales, rain gardens and bioswales reduce flooding and help our city behave more like a sponge in rain events. These special landscapes clean and filter stormwater before it flows into the drainage system while providing natural habitat for a healthier urban environment.
The Watershed Project created two large landscapes for the ITUG project – a 200-foot bioswale stretching from 17th to 18th Street and a 150-foot swale from mid-18th to 19th Street. Over the past year and a half, many people helped TWP plant 15 trees and hundreds of plants and grasses, lending a hand in big events like MLK Day and Earth Day or planning special volunteer days with their school or place of work. Community greening offers people a chance to do something tangible that improves the urban environment, strengthening the ties between cities and the natural world.
Last summer, The Watershed Project painted a mural to highlight our ITUG bioswale between 17th and 18th with local artist Rebeca Garcia-Gonzalez and this summer we finished all the planting, mulching and irrigation for the project. Now the quiet work begins to monitor and maintain our hard work. Weeding, watering and establishment are constant activities for the Greening Urban Watersheds team. Transforming a space takes time, but establishing a consistent presence and effort is an essential part of the process. Come get your hands dirty with us the second Saturday of every month and help TWP maintain our green infrastructure on the greenway for a healthier city! Note* Second Saturdays need to be added to Volunteer Opportunities page of TWP website!