Volunteers working with Asheville city staff on runoff in park

After a few hours of work, a group of 20 or so lounged on the hillside and talked about water. Unlike most conversations about water this month in Asheville, not about the water system, they were talking about runoff or storm water and how best to harness it.

Right now, storm water runs unimpeded down Morris Street until it hits the park. The city came and put an asphalt bump to divert the water further down the hill into their new collection pond further down the hill where the tennis courts used to be. But the water seems to have other ideas. A newly-developed channel leads straight down the hill and is now nearly 6-in. deep in some places.

Further west is the steep hillside garden area of the Buncombe Fruit and Nut Club, a volunteer group that has been working on bringing an edible garden space in West Asheville. Their two-year efforts led to a small harvest of a variety of crops last year, hazel nuts, pears, strawberries, and peaches were among the goodies. The hill overlooks the ball field, and facing west and south has no shortage of sun — water is the problem. The hill is too steep to retain water.

“Organic material can retain 900% of the water that enters it,” explains Bill Whipple, of the group. “What we need on a hill like this is a series of berms of organic materials with the plants below them, so as the water flows along the berm it is absorbed and enters the roots, and not the creek below.” To that end, the group raked and shoveled mulch into rows across the hillside, and using a plumb-bob mapping out a potential pipeline to divert the errant rainwater from the newly-forming canyon over to the trees. Sticks with surveyor’s tape now show how the water would run over to the trees and into the mulch.

“It looks like it will work,” said Whipple. “Now we have a clear path to show the city, and a way to solve this problem with a few volunteers.”


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