Thoughts on a drainage swale for the stormwater coalition

As some of you know I have a particular interest in a drainage swale in the North Burial Ground in Providence. It drains one small sector of the Burial Ground, essentially collecting road runoff from one part of one hill. It happens to hold water most of the time, going dry only occassionally. It ws dry last spring, filling on May 25 after a big rain and has had water in it pretty much ever since. Went dry the summer before for a few weeks as well. The last few weeks it has been shrinking, and my special concern is the Fowler’s Toad tadpoles that were in the swale. A population I have been studying and filming the past 2 years. My wife woudl tell you that this time of yer it seems I spend more time with the tadpoles than I do with her. Anyways, with the pond drying up slowly and the shoreline moving further and further away from where I can set up my camera without disturbing the muddy bottom, it was getting harder to conduct my video project and I was worried that the pond would go dry before the toads were launched. So I was praying fror rain.

With the rain Wednesday and Thursday I was hoping the pond would fill back up, a hard train is all it takes. So yesterday about 1 PM I went out to the swale. There is one inlet off the road, a sort of channeled drop off the road, feeding into a cat tail swamp (dry yesterday) and then making its way into what most would call a pond. At 1 PM despite two days of showers, it was clear that the water had not reached the pond. There were a few tiny pools in the access that had not filled yet. As I was watching and pondering it started to rain harder and slowly the flow off the road increased. It never rained really hard, but for the half hour I was able to devote to it it rained fairly steady, and the stream off the road kept getting wider. Soon the little pools along the access sluice were filled and overflowing into the marsh. I walked around the pond (takes literally 3 minutes) and noticed the uneven parts of the mudflats were turning into puddles, but it felt like the abundant organic matter under the cattails was still absorbing all the water. On my third trip around I saw a plume of silt coming out of the marsh, confirming the water was finally reaching the pond, and sure enough by my 4th trip around the water was starting to flow over the mudflats. I was able to get back last night several hours after the rain ended. The pond had come up considerably, though still ringed by 4 feet of mud. Warmer weather is on the way, but I am a bit more confident that the tadpoles will make it through this year.

For the work of the stormwater coalition it is a reminder of what kind of rains can bring us localized accumulations of water, and a reminder that we should be on the lookout for places where green stormwater infrastructure can provide habitat for the neglected creatures of our community.

For those of you who are interested there are a variety of videos available om Youtube that show these tadpoles and the pond they inhabit. Moshassuckcritters

I will also be leading a tour next Saturday June 14 at 9 AM showing off the forest restoration along the Moshassuck River and the wildlife of the burial ground, including the drainage swale and its tadpoles. For more info email me.

Greg Gerritt Friends of the Moshassuck

Letter on economics June 2014

The first section of the Sunday June 1 Providence Journal was filled with economic tales of woe. Wages have Flatilined, falling for many Rhode Islanders. At the same time pay for Corporate CEO’s is at an all time high compared to what everyone who works for them gets paid. And everyone is wondering why we can not get the Rhode Island economy to work well. I would suggest that instead of looking to give more to the 1%, that we focus our public policies on a better distribution of wealth, more ecological healing, food security and climate resilience. Current public policy suggests that real estate speculation is the main policy driver, with an ideological assault on regulation because we confuse building buildings on wetlands with economic development.

The way out of our dilemma is not corporate tax cuts, not the gutting of renewable energy standards, or the easing of water quality protections. The way forward begins with democracy, of reducing the power of money to control public policy, followed by community involvement in development decisions and a much stronger effort to make sure the benefits of brownfield reuse stays in the communities along the rivers rather than leaking to the other side of town.

Greg Gerritt