New bioswale debuts in Point State Park

By October 23, 2015Blog

Landscape allows stormwater to be absorbed into the ground

Bioswale in Point State Park photo

Congratulations to our friends at the Garden Club of Allegheny County, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, PennState Master Gardeners, and many other partners for their work to create a new bioswale landscape in Point State Park!

What’s a bioswale, you ask? Bioswales are landscaping trenches made of layers of soil, rocks, sand, and native plants. Not only can they look beautiful, but they also serve a very important function in areas that tend to get overwhelmed with rainwater runoff during a storm.

Many urban and suburban areas contain large, hard surfaces like parking lots, rooftops, and roads. Stormwater hits these surfaces and often creates a rushing torrent filled with oils, chemicals, and other pollutants that empties into storm drains. In many places throughout Pittsburgh, too much rushing water can overwhelm the storm drains and the combined sewer system, which then overflows and discharges water and untreated sewage directly into the city’s rivers. It’s a big problem for water cleanliness and safety, not to mention the flooding that can happen with all that water rushing downhill. 

Bioswales are attractive “green” solutions to managing stormwater because they allow that rushing water to seep into the ground before it has the chance to flood or empty into the sewer system. The plants, soils and sands act as natural filters for the pollutants carried by the stormwater.

The Garden Club of Allegheny County raised $100,000 to construct the massive bioswale in Point State Park in celebration of the Club’s 100th anniversary. The bioswale was officially opened during a ribboncutting ceremony on October 22, 2015.

We salute the club members and their partners for making such a beautiful and stormwater-friendly investment in Point State Park. If you’d like to see the bioswale for yourself, visit Point State Park during regular park hours (dawn to dusk). Walk west toward the fountain and pass through the Portal Bridge that bisects the park. The bioswale is located on the hill leading up to the overlook directly to your right (north) as you exit the Portal Bridge.

Photos by Stephan Bontrager. Top: The bioswale covers much of the hill leading up to the overlook by the Fort Duquesne Bridge. Middle photos: A sign explains the stormwater absorption process. Native plantings and a terraced landscape collect and direct stormwater to flow into porous areas in the ground. Bottom: The Garden Club’s Maureen Young describes the process for building and opening the bioswales.