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Edison High School getting a green makeover

HOLLAND — A two-part stormwater management project at Edison High School will begin construction the day after school gets out, bringing a new rain garden, more trees, parking lot improvements and public artwork to the school.

The estimated $400,000 project will be funded through a capital investment by the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (MWMO) and is part of the Northeast Green Campus Initiative. Stantec, an international sustainable design firm with an office in St. Paul, is finalizing conceptual drawings this week and they hope to bid out the construction work over the next couple of months.

“It’s great that it improves water quality, it’s great that it supports the school and all of the other stakeholders, but you know what’s really great? It cleans up a couple areas that are a little on the blighted side and a little bit, well, scroungy I think is the technical term,” said City Council Member Kevin Reich (Ward 1) at the February Holland Neighborhood Improvement Association (HNIA) meeting.

The Northeast Green Campus Initiative is an ongoing collaborative effort to provide better maintenance, water management, public art, and neighborhood beautification in the Holland neighborhood surrounding Edison High School. Partners in the effort include the MWMO, HNIA, Minneapolis Public Works Department, Minneapolis Park Board, Minneapolis Public Schools, Edison Youth Green Council, Preventing Harm Minnesota, and Councilman Reich’s office.

This project comes at a time when communities in every part of Minnesota are dealing with escalating water management problems during one of the worst droughts the state has seen in decades.

“There’s a lot of connectivity with what we’re doing here to the Mississippi River; ultimately all our water ends up there,” said John Slack, a landscape architect from Stantec who presented at the HNIA meeting along with Reich and two members of the Edison Youth Green Council. “What we’re trying to do here is manage the stormwater, infiltrate the stormwater, and clean the stormwater prior to it getting to the river, if it even gets to the river.”

Part one of the project focuses on the parking lot on the corner of 22nd Avenue NE and Quincy Street. A 4-foot deep trench will be dug going straight across the center of the parking lot, and in it approximately 10 trees will be planted. This tree trench will collect up to 4 inches of stormwater from the north side of the lot during a single rainfall, and will not result in any parking spaces being removed.

In the southern half of the parking lot a block of pervious pavement will be installed with 4 feet of stormwater storage available below.

“The pervious pavement lets all of the water fall through to the storage tank below, kind of like a giant aquarium,” said Slack, a Northeast resident.

There are also plans to close the southern half of the alley next to the parking lot to create a biofiltration swale — a modified rain garden designed to soak up excess runoff and slow stormwater on its way to the Mississippi.

The city and the school district were still in negotiations over that aspect of the plan because the city is required to provide alley access for emergency vehicles, snowplows and garbage trucks. All of the construction on the parking lot should be complete by the seventh annual Edison Community Barbeque in late August.

Part two of the project focuses on the gym roof at Edison. Stormwater that hits the gym roof will be piped into two different cisterns — one above ground and one below ground  — instead of letting that water drain directly into the storm pipes next to the gym.

One of the three rows of stairs outside the gym will be taken out to make room for the below ground cistern and a rain garden consisting of native, drought-resistant plants. The necessary pumps and piping will be installed along with the cisterns before the rain garden is planted next spring.

The pumps that are connected to the cisterns will be able to reuse the water they collect to irrigate the landscape and can be turned on during special events to run water through artwork.

“The idea of actually seeing stormwater coming from the roof and cascading down through artwork is a really cool thing,” said Slack. “We want to be able to celebrate the stormwater in its transition back to the earth.”

Slack said his design team will be working with the Edison Youth Green Council and a local artist to design the artwork.

“On so many levels, this is just a fantastic project,” said one attendee of the HNIA meeting. Holland residents have long complained about traffic from the alley next to the parking lot and the blighted corner of Monroe and 22nd Avenue.

Reich explained that the next phase of the Northeast Green Campus Initiative will involve the flood mitigation pond across the street from Edison. The pond was built after a massive flood almost destroyed the school in 1996.

Details were still forthcoming, but over the next two to three years Reich hoped to begin a project that uses the water from the pond to irrigate the football and softball fields at Edison, among other improvements.