An environmentally driven development project being undertaken in Laurel has been recognized as recipient of a statewide award that was recently bestowed on the town in conjunction with a local community development organization. District Coordinator of the Sussex Conservation District David W. Baird notified Laurel Mayor John Shwed in April that the town of the Laurel Redevelopment Corporation (LRC) were selected as “Governor’s Conservation District Award” in the District’s Urban Category for its Tidewater Park project.
“The town is to be commended for its efforts that not only addressed drainage and flooding concerns impacting the Town and its residents, but for also going the extra mile by installing practices that will improve water quality in the Broad Creek and the Chesapeake Bay,” Baird said in his announcement. “The District is very fortunate to have such a strong partnership with the town of Laurel and we look forward to working with you on future projects to enhance, maintain, protect and improve the land and water resources throughout the town and Sussex County.
Last summer ground was broken to begin the formation of what will come to be called Tidewater Park, a component of the downtown Laurel “The Ramble” project. Tidewater Park is located on the parcel of town-owned land along Central Avenue, directly across from the Shore Stop convenience store.
A component of the Tidewater Park overall concept is a bioswale, which is comprised of landscape elements designed to concentrate or remove debris and pollution out of surface runoff water. The overall Ramble concept involves utilizing natural elements as the basis for helping to promote the viability of natural resources with an emphasis on the Broad Creek. Tidewater Park is proposed to include a nature-based playground that will be designed to connect with the existing Boys & Girls Club and create a parkland amenity for the town.
The Ramble concept utilizes the Broad Creek as the background for greenways and walking paths and trails to connect the waterfront from Roger C. Fisher Memorial River Park on the west side of Laurel, down through the center of town and out to the area of east of Delaware Avenue just past Laurel Towne and the Broad Creek Villas.
In a Laurel Mayor and Council meeting last year, Town Manager Jamie Smith said having the natural amenities of Tidewater Park bioswales, will enable a large amount of surface storm water to be treated before flowing into the Broad Creek.
As part of the Tidewater Park project, the town recently applied and received funding through the Delaware Division of Parks and Recreation, Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Trails to construct a walkway that will run through the park and include amenities such as park benches, a shade pavilion and kiosk. The walkway is planned to begin at the parking lot of the Laurel Boys & Girls Club on Central Avenue and run 16,800 linear feet through the park grounds.
Smith said the Tidewater Park project would treat over 2.23 acres of impervious surfaces currently lacking storm water management. The open space of the park represents an opportunity to cost-effectively treat a large area of impervious surface within the town’s waterfront district. Environmental benefits include the reduction of nutrients for enhancement of local water quality, the creation of native fish habitat, and the addition of native urban tree canopy.
Funding to design and install the constructed wetland and bioswale in Tidewater Park was provided through separate Chesapeake Water Quality Improvement and Chesapeake Bay Implementation grants from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. The Sussex Conservation District is doing site work.