By Linnaea Weld and Tanisha Randhawa
We are excited to launch our Razoo Campaign to raise support for the 21st Street Project. Read more about it on our events page and visit the Razoo page to learn about how you can help us reach our goals at 21st Street! Read on to learn more about what this project is all about.
This summer, we are rolling up our sleeves and gearing up to continue our work on the Richmond Greenway at 21st street. We will be building a bioswale, rain gardens, and expanding our habitat garden. So while we are looking forward, this is also a good time to look back and reflect on how important the Greenway is to issues of stormwater runoff and urbanization in Richmond.
Industrialization began when Richmond was established as a railroad terminal in 1895. In 1905, the oil refinery today known as Chevron was built. Due to its location near railroad lines and the growing employment opportunities, Richmond and its industry continued to expand. During WWII, the Kaiser shipyards boomed. What were some results of all of this industrial history? Some results were concrete and pollution.
When ground is covered by pavement, rainwater cannot infiltrate into the dirt, instead pooling and traveling on the ground surface. As the water travels down, it collects any pollutants present on the surface and transports these toxins to our groundwater, creeks, lakes, and Bay. In the city that has the most miles of shoreline in the whole Bay Area (32 miles,) few residents have access to open space. Green space, both for fostering healthy communities and absorbing stormwater, becomes especially important.
Enter the Richmond Greenway. The project was started in 1997 as a part of the Rails to Trails initiative. While this project increased open public space, drainage remained a major issue. The Greenway crosscut the natural flow of water, meaning that streets ending at the greenway became inundated during the rainy season, with the water having nowhere to go. A low-cost solution was needed to solve stormwater issues while preserving and improving valuable green space for the Richmond community.
The solution was to build rain gardens and bioswales. These two Low Impact Development features collect water on low gradients, slowing the water and allowing it to infiltrate into a porous surface, instead of flowing across concrete. When the water is slowed, suspended particles settle out, and plants incorporate pollutants into the soil, where they are immobilized or decomposed. Additionally, the projects provide much-needed green space to the community. Native plants provide new scenery and increased greenery to the public spaces along the Greenway.
Now, let’s step into the future for a look at the 21st Street Project. Currently, where 21st Street meets the Greenway, there are 3 small plots of land masked by unattended plants and blocked drainage systems. The drains are caked with mud and are no longer effective, as indicated by the pools of water that form after rain events, even if it just a few inches. However, plans to revive and utilize this area have been transforming these seemingly purposeless lands into systems that provide numerous benefits to both the residents directly along 21st Street and the community of Richmond as a whole.
Designs have already been constructed and approved, and materials costs are in the process of being calculated. Our next step is to actually build the bioswale and rain gardens. We aim to complete this by the winter season to be enjoyed by the community. The bioswales and rain gardens will absorb 30% more stormwater into the ground than a conventional lawn and reduce 70% of surface water pollution that originates from stormwater runoff. The project will keep the momentum of the Richmond Greenway, and the task of reversing Richmond’s industrial history, alive.