You may have noticed crews scraping the Riverwalk Trail in the aftermath of the recent rain events. What you might not realize, however, that all the silt and mud that washed up on the trail will not go to waste. Danville Parks and Recreation Parks Maintenance crews continually find ways to re-use and repurpose and river flood deposits are no exception.
Within a few hours on the first sunny day, the crew began scraping and clearing the trail for use and nine miles were reopened by lunch time on that day. The soil can be used as top dressing on green spaces and ball fields. Of course, mud and silt deposits are not a big story, what the big story here is the fact that the maintenance division works tirelessly to reduce the Parks and Recreation Department’s carbon footprint and take care of the city’s resources and has made that a part of day-to-day operations.
“We always look for ways to improve our operations and take care of the environment at the same time,” said Parks Maintenance supervisor Randee Brown during a recent presentation. “Most people think we just mow grass and line ball fields, but we really take what we do seriously. We are proud of the things we have been able to accomplish, the money we have been able to save and the condition our parks are in year round.”
In 2008, Brown and company took a seemingly small step toward a greener division by simply re-routing a few trucks.
“We basically had one truck and crew handling one task at a time and multiple trucks visiting the same site” Brown said. “What we did was outfitted the trucks, trailers and crews to handle all the tasks needed at one site to reduce driving time and emissions. It was a logical move that really worked well.”
The maintenance division also began to add additional landscaped areas to reduce mowing, which in turn provided new habitats for wildlife such as birds and butterflies, reduced wear on equipment and drastically reduce the emissions put off by lawnmowers, which according to some studies can in one hour put off as much pollution as a 100-mile car trip.
“Grow Zones” were also identified in some areas along the Dan River which not only saved on emissions, but also among other things act as a filter to catch trash run off from the parks or neighboring areas before it makes it into the river.
“It’s pretty simple,” Brown said. “We let the tall grass and weeds grow along the grow zones while maintaining the well-used areas. When there’s runoff or flooding, the Grow Zones help us keep the river clean.”
In a unified effort to use fewer chemicals, the division has assigned an area in Ballou Park to act as a compost site for grass clippings, leaves and plant material. The compost is used to build up soil profiles instead of chemical fertilizers, and sometimes as backfill or soil amendment for landscape areas. Crews have also been instructed to mow according to Best Management Practices in order to reduce weed infestations which also reduce the use of chemical controls. Mowing heights and frequency as well as attention to condition of blades are part of everyday protocols now during the season.
“A lot of small changes add up to an pretty big impact on the size of our carbon footprint, not to mention being responsible with our budget and environment.”