Eureka Springs Is Many Things, Including (and Especially) Green (Green Initiatives | Winner, Fewer than 5,000)

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 9, 2013 12:00 am  

(Photo by David Casaletto, Ozarks Water Watch)

It could be argued that Eureka Springs, that wonderful Victorian resort city clinging to the limestone hills and crags of Carroll County, marches to the beat of its own drummer.

Eureka is Bohemian in its vibe and progressive in its outlook yet decidedly family friendly — home to Mardi Gras parades, UFO conferences and Christ of the Ozarks.

But Eureka Springs also is enthusiastically green. It is the oldest continuous Tree City USA community in Arkansas, and its 2012 implementation of a storm water management system is the latest example of its focus on stewardship. The Cardinal Spring Wetland Demonstration Project for the city’s Harmon Park is helping the city’s watershed plus educating its residents on the benefits of conservation.

These efforts earned Eureka Springs recognition as a 2013 Arkansas Business City of Distinction. The city is a winner in the Green/Energy Conservation Initiatives category for cities with populations fewer than 5,000 people.

Mayor Morris Pate said the aim of the Cardinal Spring project is to improve the capture, retention, infiltration and discharge of storm water that impacts streets, ditches and stream paths within Eureka’s headlands watershed area.

“The project demonstrates that a healthy, productive green space with a planted storm water treatment area such as a rain garden can offer help to the sensitive watershed of Eureka Springs,” he said. “The outcome of reducing the volume of water currently discharged from this site is to reduce scouring and erosion of the adjoining ditches, retain sediments and help filter pollutants through plantings.”

The Cardinal Spring project is a low impact approach that was funded by the Arkansas Forestry Commission. It serves as an example of Eureka’s emerging eco-tourism industry.

“The historic footprint of Eureka Springs, unfolding since the late 1870s, has a landscape featuring nearly 60 ground water springs, miles of hand-stacked stone walls, many unimproved streets and alleys, and a lovely, dense forest cover,” Pate said. “Parts of the community have only recently been modernized in the typical urban sense. The main storm water system, draining the bulk of the historic downtown neighborhoods, was constructed more than a century ago and consequently has ongoing leakage problems. Increased coverage in impervious surfaces such as cement and asphalt adds to the already challenging development issues of our steep, fragile karst terrain.”

The creation of the Cardinal Spring project, like most others of its kind, was a team effort involving a partnership of local resources. Pate said earthworks and surface regarding were handled by the Eureka Springs Public Works Department. Debris cleaning and hand grading were performed by the Eureka Springs Parks & Recreation staff.

Local volunteers cleaned, prepared planting sites and planted new growth. One local volunteer, a dam engineer, added his expertise to make sure the project functioned well. Another, a local Boy Scout working on his Eagle Scout project, supervised a group of volunteers who built a new trail leading to scenic Cardinal Spring itself.

Another partner in the project was the Ozarks Water Watch, a regional nonprofit organization that provided funds for educational materials about the new rain garden including an on-site interpretive sign and a rain garden brochure.

Other promotional support came from the Springs Committee of the Eureka Springs Parks & Recreation Commission, which hosted “Celebrate the Springs.” The weekend event focused on all the city’s springs and featured a how-to workshop on the planting and benefits of rain gardens with a special, hands-on session at Cardinal Spring.

Plus, students from nearby Clear Spring School spent an afternoon at Cardinal Spring learning about rain gardens and helping plant trees. The school plans to create a rain garden on its campus.

Pate said the Cardinal Spring project is meeting the city’s goal of helping residents understand how to work with trees and plants to improve infiltration and reduce storm water runoff.

“It is helping to enhance the technical skills of those involved in the project as well as visitors to the site while demonstrating the benefits of an active green, soft engineered landscape,” Pate said. “The Cardinal Spring project broadens public understanding of this type of low impact development which we hope will be carried over into local municipal codes and recognized as beneficial to both public and private lands in Eureka Springs.”



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