Project Profile: Canal Park


Project Name: Canal Park

Location: Washington, D.C.


Project Scope: Organic turf maintenance, greywater irrigation system maintenance, perennial and tree installation and maintenance, and maintenance of several sustainable systems including a rain garden, bioretention planters, green roof and living wall.

Date Project Maintenance Began: January 2013

Ruppert Branch: Forestville, MD Landscape Management Branch

Ruppert Team Members who Worked on the Project: Matthew Davidson (branch manager), Bernard Botchway (area manager), Wayne Taylor (area manager), Patty Steadman (field manager), Ernesto Sanchez, Euginio Garcia, and Donald Jefferson (crewmen).

Industry Awards Won: National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) 2016 Grand Award, Landscape Contractors Association (LCA) 2016 Grand Award

Site Description: Canal Park is one of the first parks built as part of the District’s Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, is LEED certified and is a three star certified pilot project for the Sustainable Sites Initiative. The park is intended to be a model for sustainability, a social gathering place and an economic trigger for the surrounding neighborhood. Located on the site of a former parking lot for district school buses, this three-block-long park is sited along the historic former Washington Canal system. Inspired by the site’s waterfront heritage, the design evokes the history of the space with a linear rain garden and three pavilions reminiscent of floating barges that were once a common sight along the canal.

There are a number of sustainable design strategies incorporated into Canal Park including an extensive storm water collection and reuse system, which includes a linear rain garden, Low Impact Design tree pits, a street infrastructure that allows surrounding buildings to send rainwater into the system, and approximately 80,000 gallons of underground cistern capacity. Additional sustainable site amenities include geothermal heating and cooling of the pavilion, vegetated green roof, energy/water monitoring dashboard systems, electric car charging stations and bicycle parking racks. Other site features designed to encourage use include art and sculpture, an ice skating rink in winter, a café, water fountains and lawn areas. Spaces within the park are used for a variety of programs, events and celebrations—all of which work in concert to create a park that balances sustainability and community use and economic growth.

All stormwater collection systems convey water to three underground cisterns with 80,000-gallon capacity. Rainwater from roof downspouts, trench drains, pervious paving, overflows from the biofiltration tree planters and rain garden are all collected and stored in the underground cisterns and used to irrigate the site.

Bioretention planters act as filters to ensure that the pollutants, oil and other hydrocarbons contained in storm runoff are minimized and do not make their way into natural waterways and damage ecosystems. Specially engineered soil mixes work in concert with native species such as American Hornbeam and Willow Oak which are drought and moisture tolerant to break down contaminants and recharge the groundwater.

In caring for site’s rain garden, the landscape contractor removes weeds and invasive species; monitors and adjusts the soil pH; keeps rain gutters clear of debris; removes debris, litter and sediment (monitored closely especially after storms); deadheads to encourage continued growth and collects seeds and cuttings from successful plants to spread in the new growing season.

A green roof and living wall help the pavilions blend with their natural surroundings. Occasional weeding of the green roof is necessary in addition to frequent inspection for drainage backups to ensure flow paths are not blocked. The maintenance specifications on the site call for a very naturalized and full-bodied approach vs. neat and tight.

There is a considerable partnership between client and contractor to manage the site’s irrigation needs. In addition to two overall inspections a year of the entire system, the contractor performs visual inspections of the site at every weekly visit, entering the mechanical room to check the pump station readout for alerts, visually checking tank levels, the UV filter and electronic valve, and checking irrigation heads for damage and clogged filters.

Because the park is open year-round with amenities like the ice rink as a prominent winter feature, the client prefers that dormant plant material remain in the landscape. The client and contractor walk the site weekly at the end of the growing season to determine which plants should be left and which cut back. Leaving plants in place adds areas of visual interest to an otherwise bleak landscape, enables a food source for seed-eating birds and contributes nutrients back to enrich the soil.

The park tavern provides a convenient watering hole for local businesses. Crews finish working before lunchtime so as not to disturb restaurant patrons. Two-cycle battery powered equipment is used to help reduce noise, which adds to the sustainable nature of this site.

Keeping plant material thriving, including turf and planting beds that are highly compacted due to people and pets walking on and through them, dictates aeration, over-seeding and organic top-dressing the turf and tilling of all beds twice a year, as well as soil amendments and installation of additional topsoil.

Top dressing occurs twice a year and requires delivery of 4-5 F450 truck loads. They are delivered one truckload at a time (to avoid blocking busy city streets for extended periods of time) and then transferred and spread using wheelbarrows.

Over 2,800 perennials and groundcover—that range from full sun to dense shade themes—cover approximately 20,000 sq/ft throughout the landscape and provide continued visual interest and a dense verdant feel. Crews monitor closely for invasive species like Cattails, Multiflora Rose, Oriental bittersweet, English Ivy, Garlic Mustard due to the site’s close proximity to a waterway.

Pathways are punctuated with benches, encouraging visitors to stop and enjoy the many varieties of plant material, like Annabelle Hydrangea and Hyperion Daylily.

The client is an active partner in the maintenance of the park. Several times a week there are face to face meetings, emails, calls and other communications with updates and concerns that the landscape contractor addresses within 24 hours.

Providing a consistently high standard of maintenance in this urban landscape is challenging, but with strong communication between all parties and an eye to detail, this public-private partnership has managed to turn a school bus parking lot into an environmentally friendly greenspace for people to work, live and play.