pigeon4The city of New Baltimore recently celebrated the completion of three federally funded projects that aim to improve water quality in Lake St. Clair.

Walter and Mary Burke Park now boasts three new rain gardens, two electronic bird deterrents and permeable pavers, which all work to improve the quality of the stormwater runoff that enters Lake St. Clair. A ribbon-cutting ceremony took place at the park on Oct. 21 to mark the completion of the project.

“These rain gardens and the pervious pavers above them will help improve the water quality at our beach and all of Lake St. Clair,” Mayor John Dupray said. “It will do this by reducing the pollutants that drain directly into the lake and improving soil erosion and stormwater runoff.”

Two of the new rain gardens are located near the lake front by the outdoor pavilion, and the third garden is located near the swing sets.

Rain gardens are created by digging out an area and filling it with materials that allow water to run down into the ground, such as native plants with long root systems that help infiltrate water deep into the soil. This allows the ground to absorb water slowly, rather than running into the lake without treatment.

The gardens are part of a solution to occasional beach closures at Burke Park, according to the city. Stormwater runoff is a key mechanism for contaminants to reach the beach and is considered one of the biggest sources of water pollution, according to Environmental Consulting and Technology Inc., the project engineer for the improvements.

ECT determined that stormwater runoff is a probable source of E. coli. Geese and seagull droppings also contaminate the runoff, which then makes its way to the beach.

To deter geese and seagulls from the beach area, electronic audial devices have been installed on each end of the outdoor pavilion in Walter and Mary Burke Park. The devices emit bird distress cries to discourage birds from landing in the area, including the boat docks.

“The bird deterrent devices should reduce the mess the gulls and Canada geese cause and improve the health and concerns of our park visitors,” Dupray said.

New Baltimore Parks and Recreation Department Director Lee Miller said the city’s goose deterrent program was extremely successful this summer, significantly reducing the amount of goose droppings in the park. Continued…“As a result of that, we only had to close the public beach once the entire summer,” Miller said. “In years past, we would have to close the beach on an average three to four times, but this year, our lake water was extremely clean.”

In addition, the newly installed permeable brick pavers at the entrance to the park also work to improve water quality by allowing water to enter the soil while still providing a solid and stable walking surface. The former impervious surfaces at the entrance to the park did not absorb water, potentially allowing runoff water to carry pollutants directly into the lake.

“I think the three projects that were completed in the park have turned out very well,” Miller said. “The brick pavers at the main park entrance look great, and we are very excited to see the rain gardens grow and bloom into beautiful landscaping.”

Miller said he thinks the city’s efforts will not only benefit the nearly 1,000 people who visit the beach each weekend during the summer, but also the environment and the wildlife that lives in it.

“Lake St. Clair has an extremely vibrant eco-system with a wide variety of fish populations,” he said, “and we believe that our efforts will play a part in keeping Anchor Bay environmentally healthy.”

The projects were completed with a roughly $260,000 grant obtained through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The work was overseen by the Macomb County Office of Public Works and was completed by Tom Ward & Sons Inc. of Casco Township, Dupray said.

“I am very pleased with the quality of the work and the end results,” he said. “We were certainly fortunate to receive this federal grant and to have Macomb County Public Works Department oversee the construction, all at no cost to our residents.”

Construction took about a month and a half to complete. The popular dahlia garden is expected to return to the park next spring.

“The Koenig family has been patient through the construction and will be back with the city’s adopted flower for all to enjoy,” Dupray said.

The amount of park space was also temporarily reduced during construction due to fencing placed around the gardens. The parks and rec department worked to alleviate inconvenience by offering “construction refunds” to pavilion renters as well as an opportunity to cancel with a full refund, Miller said. Continued…“There were many pieces to the puzzle for this project, and with that being considered, I think everything went very well,” he said.


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