GREENBELT – The Mayor and City Council unanimously authorized a team of local environmental scientists, engineers and community organizations to proceed with an innovative landscaping project.
The approved team will install a 6-foot by 4-foot green wall—a wall partially or completely covered with vegetation—at the Springhill Lake recreational center.
“This will not only benefit community by inviting children and adult participation but also provide a valuable scientific information about which Maryland plants are appropriate for low-impact ecological design of such walls in the region,” said Lela Stanley, a graduate student at the University of Maryland.
The green wall is part of Stanley’s master thesis at the university.
Stanley, majoring in environmental science and technology, said the installation would be an experiment to determine which native plant species can be expected to survive in such structures around the state.
“There is very little science literature about which Maryland plant species will prosper in living walls with most of the plants being currently imported out of state for that purpose,” Stanley said. “Installing the wall at the center will allow us to test various species for their ability to thrive in wall system.”
There are six green walls in Stanley’s College Park lab and three small replicas of vertical wetland walls in the Baltimore Harbor. The wall in Greenbelt will be relatively small-scale, will be able to self regulate, Stanley said.
“Because this wall is designed to self-organize, some plants will naturally die and their space will be taken over by other species – either by plants originally chosen for the wall or by other species deposited by wind or animals,” according to the team’s proposal.
According to a design plan submitted by the team, the wall will be mounted to a freestanding structure made of recovered building materials supplied locally. Water from the existing rain barrel will be directed to the living wall with a solar-powered pump triggered by moisture sensors.
There will also be a bike pump attached to the wall, provided by Ben Bassett, co-owner of Proteus Bicycles, a shop on Route 1 in College Park.
Basset has designed a custom-built bicycle to connect to the rain barrel. Any center visitor will be able to use the bicycle for exercise, and the bike’s use will provide water to the green wall.
“As they pedal, the wall will be irrigated by the action of the human power,” Bassett said.
Chesapeake Education, Arts and Research Society will install a sign explaining the bicycle pump system, which plants were originally included in the wall design and how they may change over time.
The project also intends to measure the contributions of the bike water pump and the rain water pump.
Data on the bicycle’s use, including time of day and season as well as the duration of the bike’s use, will be sent to the Department of Recreation to provide information about when youth are the most active outside at the recreational center. This data will help the department plan future planning activities.
Stanley’s team plans to hold ribbon-cutting event in September.