You might have noticed a group of men digging a rather large hole in front of Edgewood School. They’re not building an underground classroom, but they’re learning a lot as they build a bioswale.
The men are part of the EMERGE Connecticut Inc. transitional work training program, where they train in construction, landscaping and property management.
They’re working with the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies Urban Resources Initiative’s GreenSkills program to help the city and the Connecticut Fund for the Environment install bioswales in different parts of the city. They finished one in West Park and should have the one in front of Edgewood School finished by next week if the weather holds out.
A bioswale looks like an ordinary sidewalk tree well. The depressed areas sit slightly below street level and divert rainwater that would otherwise run into the sewer. Once the water is in the swale, it seeps down into the soil, reaching the water table without mixing with contaminated sewage.
Chris Ozyck, associate director for Urban Resources Initiative, said once the city removed the concrete that used to be where the men are digging, the men have to dig down about four and a half feet by hand. Before they plant a tree or anything else, they will fill in the hole with about two feet of gravel, then a special fabric, and sandy soil.
Once that’s done the men can plant, and then install, a low fence to protect the area but also make it attractive. The bioswales are about five by 20 feet between the curb and sidewalk, leaving at least five feet of unimpeded sidewalk.
Modeled on bioswales installed in New York, the features are part of New Haven’s green approach to reduce sewer overflows.