Blue Water Baltimore will conduct a study over the next year on how to best improve stormwater management around Herring Run in the Knollwood and Overbrook communities of Towson, Knollwood Association President David Riley said.
The study will examine how to curb erosion in the Herring Run tributary, a 31-square-mile watershed with headwaters in eastern Towson, and specifically how to shore up eroded portions of the Western Branch of Herring Run in Knollwood and Overbrook.
Ashley Traut, senior manager for innovative stormwater projects at Blue Water Baltimore, said that the project will focus on 2 acres of open space along the stream by Stevenson Lane and Worthington Road. Blue Water Baltimore’s initial vision for the space is a “nature-based park” with an expanded floodplain, which would allow the stream to overflow during rainstorms, he said.
“We’re envisioning a lot of native plantings, a native meadow, bio-retention or rain gardens and native plants with lots of pollinators,” Traut said.
A nonprofit, Blue Water Baltimore’s mission is to restore water quality of Baltimore-area streams, according to its website.
The land along Stevenson Lane floods because Herring Run moves through the neighborhood in two directions and converges at a narrow culvert under Stevenson Lane at the Country Club of Maryland. Flash flooding occurs during heavy rains because the culvert is too small to handle the rush of water, causing backups. Chronic flooding issues have plagued the area and Baltimore County purchased six homes on the plot and tore them down in 2016, said County Councilman David Marks, a Republican who represents the area.
Riley said the Knollwood Association chose Blue Water Baltimore because they had worked with the organization before on tree-planting projects.
“We know their work, we’ve worked with them in the past,” Riley said. “They’re highly thought of.”
The study being managed by Blue Water Baltimore is funded by a $115,571 grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust’s Watershed Assistance Two-Year Milestone Support grant program.
The trust takes applications from local government representatives, nonprofits and other local groups to help with the earliest phases of restoration projects that promote local engagement in restoring the Chesapeake Bay and other local waterways, Executive Director Jana Davis said when the grant was awarded in December.
Traut estimated that the study will last a little more than a year – “then we would seek funding to go to construction.”
If the project moves forward, Traut estimated construction would take a couple months and would cost around $650,000, the bulk of which would go to stream restoration.
Marks said he is pushing to get the funding included in the county budget for Fiscal Year 2019. The planning board recommended funding the project, but it will be up to County Executive Kevin Kamenetz whether to include it in the budget he presents to the County Council in April.
There will be multiple community input meetings regarding the study, Riley said, during which the group will lay out ideas and collect feedback.
“It’s all about getting community involvement at every phase of it, as quickly as possible,” Riley said.
The first community input meeting will be held on April 25 at 7 p.m. at the First Lutheran Church in Towson.
The project is important, Marks said, because the stream’s frequently rising water levels impact the safety of the bridges that cross over them.
In conjunction with the erosion design project, a task force, which Marks launched and Riley chairs, seeks to build a greenway called the Six Bridge Trail that runs through East Towson, connecting neighborhood parks.
The proposed Six Bridge Trail would connect parks and other landmarks in eastern Towson along the Herring Run tributary. Plans are to eventually provide a northern connection to the future Radebaugh Park and Towson Manor Park. Much of the proposed trail already exists in the form of foot paths, gravel trails and bridges behind the neighborhoods along the stream.
But Marks said the community’s most important priority is stabilizing Herring Run – without that, he said, “the flooding will continue, the stream valley will get larger and erode, and the safety of bridges will deteriorate.”
“If that doesn’t get fixed,” Marks said, “the other projects are kind of pointless.”
Margarita Cambest contributed to this story.