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Howard County Agencies Partner to Develop Green Infrastructure in Downtown Kokomo

04/11/2016

The Greater Kokomo Downtown Association, in partnership with the Howard County Master Gardeners Association, Howard County Commissioners, and the Howard County Stormwater District, plans to transform a space near a downtown parking lot into a green infrastructure initiative. The current area, near the county parking lot at the corner of Mulberry and Main Streets, will be retrofitted to include two rain gardens and a variety of physical and visual improvements designed by the Master Gardeners.

The green infrastructure project– the first of its kind in Howard County – will require the removal of the site’s current dirt to lower the area roughly 3 feet below the parking lot to promote stormwater runoff. Amended soil, sand, and other materials will fill in the garden area and will be topped with a river rock-type look. Structures on the site will be built with pervious brick material to allow for water flow.

“Although the initial focus of this project was to improve aesthetics of a downtown garden area, the final result will create an area that looks great and also improves our water quality,” says Howard County Stormwater District Deputy Surveyor Greg Lake. “Currently, stormwater runoff in that area collects leaked automotive fluids, grit, and other pollutants from the parking lot and dumps it directly into storm drains and, eventually, into the Wildcat Creek. By creating a rain garden there, we can slow down the runoff and let the water soak into the ground, letting the soil act as a filter to trap pollutants before it reaches our surface water. Ultimately, this project will reduce the discharge of storm and sewer water into the Wildcat Creek during a storm event, which in turn will improve the creek’s water quality, flow, and the habitat for its wildlife.”

Beyond the water quality focus, the new space will also include a variety of other aesthetic and structural improvements. A permanent performance stage will be built for use at First Fridays and other downtown events, while new lighting fixtures and 200 feet of rebuilt sidewalk will provide a more comfortable waiting area for riders at the intersection’s City Line Trolley stop. Foliage in the garden will include a variety of native plants that will bloom throughout the year and attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies to the area.

“On behalf of Howard County government, we couldn’t be more excited to see this project happening in our community,” says Howard County Commissioner Tyler Moore. “Contributing funds to this unique project was important to us, as this initiative aligns perfectly with the visions of both local government and several of our non-profit organizations. It benefits the citizens of Kokomo, Howard County, and our environment by reducing water pollution, improving existing infrastructure, and developing a public space that our residents can be proud to visit.”

“This project is the result of many ideas and interested parties coming together at the right moment,” adds Susan Alexander, Manager of Downtown Initiatives for the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance. “In addition to developing a beautiful space that our residents can be proud of, we also examined the long-term implications of this project and how we can prevent future issues down the road. It’s five times less costly to make surface improvements to stormwater infrastructure than to address them underground, so we’re very excited to be developing a solution that is both environmentally and economically responsible.”

Funds for the renovation will be provided by the Stormwater District and the county’s Economic Development Income Tax (EDIT) dollars. Completion of the project is currently slated for June 2016.

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About the Howard County Stormwater District

The Howard County Stormwater District is committed to managing water quality in stormwater drainage conveyances to protect the health and welfare of people and the environment. Management includes a mix of mandated and elected activities to provide education, coordination, maintenance, and development of high quality stormwater system in an efficient and cost effective manner with the goal to ensure that the only thing stormwater contributes to local ditches, drains, tiles and creeks is water.