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Following a number of concerns from local residents, the Town of High Level would like to clarify some of the design features present in the Main Street entrance between 97 and 98 Avenue.
The streetscaping project has been an area of concern for a number of local residents in recent weeks, largely due to the appearance of the area. The Town wants to provide an opportunity for local residents to learn more about the design concept as well as some of the management issues surrounding the project.
The project was presented to Council in July 2016 as part of the Town of High Level Main Street Concept Design. The plan is part of the Downtown Revitalization Strategy which was adopted back in 2011, based on an objective in the 2010 Community Sustainability Plan. Discussions regarding downtown redevelopment go back even further to 2005. During the course of this current project, there were numerous opportunities for local residents to provide input or to learn more about it.
The design is known as a “rain garden” and serves several functions. Some of the design features in the area included landscaping that could act as a buffer between the sidewalk and the road, and encourage people to spend time in the area by providing a naturalized environment.
The selection of trees and plants provided in the landscaping section of the plan note an intention to use variations of local species intended to create visual interest and diversity. It is intended to create a pleasant experience that people will enjoy returning to. The area includes feather reed grass, which has grown quite tall in the area.
Additionally, the rain garden serves a storm water management function as a biofilter and by dispersing storm water storage – allowing it to help with peak runoff situations. The ground contains a combination of sand, compost, and topsoil with a gravel bed and a storm water pipe. Runoff is filtered as it flows through the ground before being picked up by the pipe and added to drainage.
The purpose of a rain garden is to hold rainwater runoff. The garden can remove up to 90 per cent of nutrients and chemicals as well as up to 80 per cent of sediment from rainwater runoff. This is important because it is estimated that up to 70 per cent of water pollution is caused by runoff.
When compared to conventional lawns, rain gardens are 30 per cent better at soaking water into the ground. And as they spend most of their time dry and drain fairly quickly, they do not cause any wetland issues (bugs).
One of the issues the Town currently has with maintenance of the area is that it is unable to make alterations to the area without voiding a warranty currently in place. Any changes the Town makes (including cutting the grass) would nullify that warranty. Currently the contractor is responsible for maintenance and any changes requested would be at the expense of the contractor.
The Town is currently discussing the issue with the contractor, but the Town cannot fine the contractor over maintenance issues.
In light of the concerns expressed and the issues raised in the community, Council will revisit the idea of the rain garden to try and determine whether it remains a good fit for the community.
Additionally, the Town will again seek input from the community on the issue.