by Will Parson
May 25, 2018
Three things to know about seven-year-old Jaiden Lawrence: He likes to ride bikes, he has a loose tooth and he enjoys watering the plants and trees in his neighborhood.
“He’s always in there playing and messing with the flowers and the rocks,” explains his mother, Kalanea Lawrence, standing in the doorway of their apartment in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Earlier in the week, four or five children about the same height were spotted from a distance pouring water on a young tree covered in mulch. The energetic Jaiden with his green mountain bike was very likely one of them.
Lawrence says they moved to this apartment about six months ago, which was after the city completed a large project to return it to two-way traffic after about 40 years as a one-way street. One goal was to slow down vehicle speeds and make the area safer for residents.
The project also included vegetated curb extensions, planted with native plants, which serve as rain gardens. The rain gardens not only calm traffic but are a part of Lancaster’s large, ongoing plan to address stormwater pollution using green infrastructure.
Lancaster has implemented 80 green infrastructure projects since 2012, including tree-plantings, green roofs and permeable pavement, to address a combined sewage and stormwater pollution problem that was sending hundreds of million gallons a year into the Conestoga River. The city’s plan calls for green infrastructure in order to not only treat pollution but make the city more livable and sustainable.
The projects are also saving hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on water treatment costs, and expected to save well over a hundred million dollars over the project’s 25-year span compared to constructing large underground tanks to store stormwater.
The Lawrences’ front door is bathed in sunlight almost until sunset, even after the rest of the block is cast into a mild evening shade. Still on his bicycle, Jaiden balances one foot on the edge of the rain garden in front of his home.
“What’s that?” he asks, pointing to a dense purple bloom of beardtongue flowers.
A few years ago, the same footstep would have landed at the edge of bare asphalt and a line of parked cars.