You might have noticed the ugly orange plastic wrapped around the State Capitol for the past few months. Those who use the State Capitol grounds as part of their morning commute have found sidewalks suddenly blocked. Turns out, this inconvenience is actually not a business-as-usual bout of repairs.
The pervious paving found in the redone walkways and parking areas is intended to reduce stormwater runoff and filter pollutants for biodegredation. The installation of permeable pavers (not pictured) has a similar intent, while also allowing for infiltration in the space between blocks. Sidewalks downhill from the State Capitol typically become impassible in sections during and after rain storms, so these efforts to manage stormwater are welcome.
The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection is funding these improvements through the Green Capitols Project AKA Greening America’s Capitals, which selected five state capital cities in 2010 to receive environmental developments: Hartford, Boston, Charleston, Jefferson City, and Little Rock.
Besides the permeable pavers and pervious paving, there will be a green roof, rain gardens, and rain harvesting on the State Capitol grounds. Green roofs, in addition to reducing water runoff, reduce the heat island effect. Rain gardens are designed near runoff spots — natural depressions — making use of water that would otherwise cause ponding or enter the storm sewers. Pesticides, fertilizers, and other pollutants get filtered out of the water. Rain harvesting will happen through the installation of rooftop cisterns, which will conserve rainwater for irrigation.
The other cities participating in the Green Capitols Project are addressing environmental issues in numerous ways. Boston is also dealing with stormwater management, but is additionally concerned with making the plaza around Boston City Hall more inviting by redesigning it to add vegetation, bicycle parking, and accesibility for those with disabilities. Jefferson City, Missouri will be “engaging underserved neighborhoods and on providing equitable access to urban waters through well-planned community revitalization.” Many of the issues that Hartford has dealt with — flight, absurd planning, obstructed waterfront access, and neglect of pedestrian needs, to name a few — are described in other cities’ greening plans.