Green infrastructure’ project lets nature clean the runoff

M_23Cindy Barks
The Daily Courier

PRESCOTT – Colorful flowers, native shrubs, and rock-lined basins greet visitors to the Prescott Adult Center.

Although attractive, the new landscaping at the building’s front entrance serves a purpose that goes well beyond aesthetics.

The system of basins, trenches, and plants is being installed around the Rosser Street building with a goal in mind: To cleanse the runoff water that regularly courses down the hill on its way to Granite Creek.

Along with the “rain garden” at the building’s entrance, the green-infrastructure project features an interconnected system intended to catch, slow down, and filter the runoff water at each end of the parking lot.

“We want to capture that storm water and use a natural process (to clean it),” said Franklin Dekker, conservation coordinator for Prescott Creeks. Removing the pollution from runoff water before it reaches Prescott’s creeks has been a long-time aim of the nonprofit organization.

Dekker pointed out that the water that collects in the culverts and gullies along Rosser Street contains “non-point source pollution” from things such as lawn fertilizer and oil from the streets.

Unchecked, the polluted water runs across the Adult Center parking lot, and makes its way to the creek, which flows at the base of the hill, just across Highway 89.

Prescott Creeks has been working with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and the City of Prescott to try to reduce such runoff pollution, which ultimately ends up in Prescott’s recreational lakes, Watson and Willow.

Dekker said the construction work at the Adult Center has been under way since about April, and the planning began months before that.

On Wednesday, Dekker was getting help from a crew of veterans who were working through the Vetraplex “Hire A Vet” program.

Rik Gonzales, owner of the Prescott branch of Vetraplex, said the company offers work to vets who might otherwise be unemployed.

“These are all local veterans,” Gonzales said, pointing to the men who were planting trees and shrubs near the corner of Rosser and Blooming Hills Drive.

Vetraplex provides help with a variety of projects, Gonzales said – from landscaping to moving. He explained that he owns a franchise of the Cottonwood-based company.

Prior to the collaboration with Vetraplex, Dekker said the project had also received volunteer help from a number of groups, including the Southwest Conference United Church of Christ Camp, YEI (Yavapai Exceptional Industries), and the Decision Point and Oasis rehab centers.

In all, Dekker estimates that the project has received about 300 volunteer hours – from about 100 volunteers.

Prescott Creeks hopes that green infrastructure – which the organization describes as the creation of features “that rely on natural processes such as soil, water and plants to provide clean water, clean air, wildlife habitat, and temperature regulation” – will catch on in the community.

“This is meant to be an example on what people can do at their homes,” Dekker said, adding that Prescott Creeks conducted a recent workshop on how to create similar infrastructure, and likely will hold more in the future.

Prescott Creeks is paying for the project through a $455,895 grant that ADEQ awarded in 2013. The money also covered a similar green infrastructure project that has been under way for the past several months at the intersection of Miller Valley Road and Whipple Street.

Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @Cindy_Barks.

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