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Urban Environmental Studies

Urban Environmental Park

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The Urban Environmental Park on campus was dedicated in November of 2009. The park, including a 1.5 acre lake, has been added to the natural setting of Birmingham-Southern's wooded campus and includes an amphitheatre, walkways, a fountain, and rain gardens for storm water management. It is located on the west end of campus between the residence hall quad and the intramural fields (on the site that formerly housed old fraternity row), Lake-fountain

The Urban Environmental Park’s key sustainable elements include:

  • Systems to clean storm water before it leaves the campus by passing the water from the parking area into a series of rain gardens, to the lake spillway and then to an existing low area that acts as a vernal pond.
  • The vernal pond was preserved and enhanced by the addition of water loving plants, all in an effort to naturally recharge storm water runoff.
  • The lake fringe is designed to encourage desirable wildlife by using native and naturalized plant materials.
  • The storm water from the developed upstream watershed is directed through a series of purification measures that filter impurities from the nearby parking lots and rooftops. These measures include rain gardens to filter impurities, an aerated upper pond and then a final transition to a riparian corridor and wetlands before the storm water leaves the site.
  • Native plants or adaptive native plants in the landscape.
  • Stone materials native to the region from northern Alabama and Tennessee.
  • Lighting selected to meet dark skies criteria thereby not adding to light pollution. All lighting is pedestrian in scale and directed downward to reduce any light pollution. Lights are placed in trees wherever possible (directed downward) to enhance the effect and reduce the number of poles seen throughout the park.

UES-students-at-lake-sideThe park was awarded a Conservation Development Award from the Cahaba River Society in recognition for its low impact design (LID) features. Highlights of the park noted for the award included capturing runoff water in three rain gardens where some of it is filtered and reused to fill the park pond, saving an existing natural wetland as a third storm water infiltration site to handle pond overflow, using native plants to further filter water in the pond, and guarding of trees and minimizing tree removal on the site to protect the existing campus forest. The park was also selected as one of 150 pilot project locations for the Sustainable Sites Initiative™ (SITES™), which is an interdisciplinary effort by the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin and the United States Botanic Garden to create voluntary national guidelines and performance benchmarks for sustainable land design, construction and maintenance practices.

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