Watching Our Water Ways

Environmental reporter Christopher Dunagan discusses the challenges of protecting Puget Sound and all things water-related.
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Amusing Monday: Odd use for a parking space

October 29th, 2012 by cdunagan

Some people find it amusing that I have encouraged a little wetland to grow in a parking space next to the one where I usually park my truck.

I’ve got photos of the wetland, shown here. And, thanks to Grist magazine, I have enjoyed learning what other people have done with parking spots, other than parking your car. But first let me tell you about this little one-parking-space wetland.

The one-space wetland in a Bremerton parking lot.
Photo by Christopher Dunagan

The parking lot, which belongs to the Kitsap Sun, has been around for many decades and does not have its own storm drain. Instead, the rain water drains down to a corner of the lot, flows into an alley and dumps into a drain maintained by the city of Bremerton.

When I first came to the Sun, I was assigned that corner parking space where the water drains out between two curbs. To keep my feet from getting wet during heavy rains, I would step out of my car, onto the curb and then into the alley. I also made sure that the water flowed freely out of the parking lot and did not form a pool under my car.

I should mention that vertical steel posts rise up from the concrete curb alongside that corner space, which is very tight. The steel posts make it even more difficult to get one’s car into or out of that space. Somewhere around 1980, I actually bashed in the fender of my Ford Pinto when turning too sharply while exiting.

Anyway, when management stopped assigning parking spaces, I generally took the space next to the one I had before. After that, almost nobody ever parked in that corner space again. Inevitably, some kind of debris would pile up in the corner, trapping sediment and slowing the flow of water. For awhile, I continued to remove the debris and scoop out the sediment to keep the water from pooling up.

Eventually, I realized that I was just releasing dirty sediments, which probably carried pollutants from cars parked in the lot. So the dirty sediments were going out into Puget Sound, unless they were somehow trapped along the way.

I decided to stop releasing the water, and the sediments started piling up. Plants have grown in the sediments — more so in summer than winter. Most of the plants are just urban grasses and weeds, but they have formed a mat that seems to filter the dirty water draining to that corner.

Last spring, I planted some wildflower seeds given to me by an amused colleague. I kept looking for colorful flowers, but none came up.

Several years ago, someone came in with a shovel and cleaned out the sediments, the plants and the debris, taking the parking spot back down to its asphalt base. The process started over, and today the little wetland is functioning again — for whatever value it is to filter sediments from one parking lot.

I found a sign for sale on the Internet that might be fun to post in this wetland parking spot: “Frogs only. Others will be toad.” For information, go to My Parking Sign.

Miniature golf set up in a parking space to celebrate “Park(ing) Day.”
Photo courtesy of Grist magazine.

Most parking lots are not set up to foster wetlands, but some people are creative when it comes to the use of parking spaces. Last month, Grist gathered from the Internet “12 things you can do with a parking spot (besides parking a car)” as part of Park(ing) Day. I’ve included one of a tiny miniature golf hole on this page, but click on the link for the full set.

Finally, speaking of filtering pollution, I wonder what happens to the waste from this camel if he remains parked all day in one spot.

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"In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught."Baba Dioum, Senegalese conservationist

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