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Ventura ‘Green Street’ Paves the Way to Water Awareness

Aug 29, 2016

By Anne Kallas, Special to The Star | Original Source

{CHUCK KIRMAN/THE STAR People visit the new "green street" project on Hartman Drive in Ventura. The project is an effort to protect waterways and beaches from pollution while recharging groundwater.}

To demonstrate the new permeable concrete gutters running along Hartman Drive in Ventura, city Environmental Services Manager Joe Yahner poured recycled water from a tanker onto the hard surface.

But instead of running down the street to the nearest storm drain, the water seemed to disappear into the hard, mottled surface.

To keep stormwater from running into the ocean, the water is collected in underground pipes that run under "bio-retention cells," which contain plants that naturally filter the water.

Any excess water will be diverted through openings along the street's concrete curb that allow water to go into bioswales — long culverts lined with rocks, pebbles and plants that slow the flow of water, which is filtered as it is absorbed.

The $250,000 project in midtown Ventura was celebrated as the city's first "green street" Saturday, with elected officials and city personnel offering information about alternatives to the formerly traditional green lawns.

The bio-retention cells are dug 5 feet deep and filled first with gravel and then soil, Yahner said.

"The idea is that the water gets into the soil and percolates down through the plant roots and gravel, gradually recharging the groundwater," the environmental services manager said.

In addition to filtering and capturing water, the bio-retention cells provide more green space among parking lots behind Main Street businesses in the midtown area. They are planted with sycamores and drought-tolerant shrubs.

Mayor Erik Nasarenko said the project "means cleaner oceans for swimming, surfing and playing in, rather than being polluted by heavy metals, bacteria and chemicals."

"And rather than lose water to the ocean, especially when we're in a drought, it recharges the groundwater and is reused," he said.

The traditional model for oceanside cities in Southern California called for channeling all rainwater to the ocean as quickly as possible to avoid flooding. Over time, people realized the practice not only polluted the ocean, but also wasted precious water, Yahner said.

The city of Ventura has been promoting various practices, including rain barrels, to allow residents to individually collect water in their yards. Drought-tolerant plants are advocated, with compost bins and worm bins offering alternatives to chemical soil additives.

The city also encourages Surfrider's Ocean Friendly Gardens program, which offers assistance to people who want to transform their lawns into water-capturing oases filled with plants.

Kathleen Cressy, of Ventura, said she has been using a worm bin for years.

"I use the liquid that's generated," she said, patting the multi-drawer plastic bin where worms are fed plant, vegetable and fruit leftovers. The liquid — often referred to as "tea" — can be used as a plant fertilizer.

Cressy said she came to Saturday's demonstration and celebration to get more information about capturing rainwater to help her garden.

Dan Long, founding member of the Midtown Ventura Community Council, said the green street area along Hartman Drive is just the beginning of an ambitious project proposed by the neighborhood group.

He said plans call for cutting through the asphalt of the parking lots behind area businesses and adding grass that people can drive over.

"This is part of the bigger design. We've been working on this for seven years with the City Council, but it takes a lot of funding," Long said.

The council has enlisted local artist MB Hanrahan to help design a large mural that will be painted along the ground and made up of swirls in shades of oceanic blues and other colors.

"We won't lose any parking," Long said. The green street "is adjacent to what we want to do. It's wonderful."

Eileen Guettler, of Ventura, said she brought her two sons, ages 8 and 6, to see the demonstration so they would better understand her studies. Guettler is a student at Ventura College who is supplementing her environmental studies degree through the wastewater science program.

"Besides being in a drought, we are all stewards of our environment," she said. "This is one way to teach this to my children."

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{CHUCK KIRMAN/THE STAR Joe Yahner, city of Ventura environmental services manager, pours water onto permeable pavement Saturday at the new "green street" project in midtown Ventura.}

 

{CHUCK KIRMAN/THE STAR Joe Yahner, city environmental services manager, enjoys a sip of water at the new "green street" project celebration Saturday in midtown Ventura.}

 

{CHUCK KIRMAN/THE STAR Jim Taylor talks to a visitor Saturday at the new "green street" project in midtown Ventura.}

{CHUCK KIRMAN/THE STAR Annie Dorrington sprays water on a watershed model at the new "green street" project in midtown Ventura.}

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LEARN MORE

For more information about the city of Ventura's green street program, go online to http://www.cityofventura.net/greenstreet.

For information of Surfrider's Ocean Friendly Gardens program, go online to http://bit.ly/2bpXWeQ.

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