Water Quality Improvements Enhance Learning and Play at Great River School

Great River School
St. Paul, MN

Situated in a post-industrial area of St. Paul, Minnesota, this urban Montessori charter school is enjoying the results of a landscape improvement project that created natural outdoor play areas that also treat and minimize stormwater runoff.

Before the project, there were no stormwater management practices on site. Monitoring indicated that soils may be contaminated, so stormwater would have to be filtered, rather than infiltrated, to improve the quality of runoff.

With the goals of both improving water quality and engaging students through active learning, the school approached the Capitol Region Watershed District for grant funding to design and install several best management practices.  

“The big ‘WOW’ factor was taking the green roof concept, putting it over a parking lot to filter and capture as much runoff as possible, and rebranding it as a natural play area,” says Lucius Jonett, the project’s landscape architect. “The project also harvests stormwater for irrigation reuse.”

The natural outdoor play area intercepts and evapotranspires rainfall and filters any remaining runoff. This play area is like a green roof for a parking lot. Because of the potential soil contamination, the existing asphalt was left in place as a barrier and the play area was built on top of the pavement.

Final treatment of all stormwater leaving the property involved installing an underground Jellyfish® filter system that uses membrane filtration to remove floatables, oil, debris and total suspended solids. The system also removes particulate-bound pollutants, such as phosphorus, nitrogen and heavy metals.

A green wall system was designed for stormwater interception but it has not been installed. The design has been documented so the school can hire a contractor when sufficient funds have been raised.

Wenck  designed the landscape features and stormwater improvements for this project and oversaw construction. 

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