Market Street Stormwater Park Wins Facility of Merit Award

Last week VRPA ( Vermont Recreation and Parks Association) hosted it’s annual awards meeting and selected the Market Street Stormwater Park as a Facility of Merit.  Congratulations to the SE Group for their beautiful design and final product as well as all those involved from the City on the project team!  Read the application text below to learn more about this project, it’s design, planning, funding and it’s innovative and create place making in the heart of City Center. 

Project Overview
Completed as part of the larger Market Street streetscape project in 2020, the City of South Burlington developed a stormwater treatment and detention basin that was designed to function as an urban park. Surrounded by forest and wetlands on one side and a newly constructed shared-use bicycle and pedestrian path that runs through the new City Center development, the Market Street Stormwater Park provides vital open space to residents and visitors alike. Colorful native plantings, public art, benches, and an accessible path make this an attractive and relaxing refuge. Teaming with wildlife, people are encouraged to walk and observe the activity of frogs, birds, and other species.

Design and Planning
With creative leadership at the City of South Burlington, a team of engineers, landscape architects, and designers planned and designed the park from concept through construction drawings. With initial ideas by Whole Systems Design, the landscape architects at SE Group refined the park design, composed the plantings, and coordinated with the stormwater engineering provided by VHB. The entire Market Street reconstruction project went through a robust community process that included numerous public meetings, which informed the development of the plans.

Priority of Need
City Center is emerging as the “downtown” of South Burlington. A soon-to-be-completed Library and City Hall, which includes a senior center, adds to the expanding residential and mixed-use development happening along Market Street. With increased downtown residents and visitors comes increased need for outdoor recreation and open space.

Increase in Recreational Opportunities
The Stormwater Park provides a critical outdoor recreation function, bridging the divide between the urban environment and the natural environment. Future plans include a potential boardwalk connection over the adjacent wetlands to City Center Park, thereby providing a connection between the shared-use path on Market Street and the path network in the wooded City Center Park. Even without this connection, the Stormwater Park serves as a destination that promotes walking and biking in the heart of the city for people of all ages and abilities.

Local Commitment to the Project
The extensive community engagement process throughout the development of the project ensured buy-in, and the number of people seen using the park are a testament to a its success. In terms of funding, the City received $5.5M in outright and matching Federal grant funds to reconstruct Market Street in the early 2000s. In addition to the stormwater park, this multi-year project included the improved street with sidewalks, street trees, decorative lights and seating, and the shared use path for pedestrians and bicycles for the entire length. Additional funding for the project was primarily TIF District financing, which was supported by a public vote, with some roadway impact fees.

Innovation and Creativity
Traditionally, stormwater detention facilities have been treated as engineering infrastructure, often with fences surrounding them to prevent public access. For this project, the City had the vision to reimagine stormwater treatment as an opportunity for outdoor recreation, aesthetic enhancement, public art, and wildlife habitat. While many downtowns were constructed before stormwater regulations required impervious areas to be treated, this project represents a new model for an environmentally responsible downtown center. What could have been seen as a permitting burden became an opportunity. The design team crafted an attractive walking environment that is appealing throughout the year with plant species that provide aesthetic interest during every season. The application of a turf reinforcement mesh made a lawn path both accessible and permeable to stormwater. The creativity of the park is further boosted by integration of public art in the form of oversized bronze geese that “meander” throughout the park.