Have you ever been caught in the pouring rain while driving in downtown Burlington? If so, you've probably seen stormwater running high.
Local officials are trying to address the issue with the Silva Cell tree system. It uses an underground structure to harness stormwater which then promotes healthy tree growth.
"The Silva Cell system is an engineered decking system, which supports the pavement, so the soil underneath can remain nice, light, and fluffy," said Megan Moir of the Burlington Stormwater Management Program.
While the Silva Cell system has already been installed all over the world, this will be Burlington's first, located on Cherry Street.
Many frames will be placed right on top of each other, and the end result is a really strong structure. The underground structure will support the weight of traveling vehicles. Once it's completed, the pavement and sidewalk will be fixed, and finally a tree will be planted.
"Trees themselves are the perfect stormwater system. They capture rainfall and even prevent it from hitting the pavement and picking up all of the pollutants. Also, through their root system they're able to suck up all of the stormwater from the system," Moir said.
Burlington City Arborist Warren Spinner was careful to choose the appropriate type of tree.
"That's gonna be a Princeton American elm, one of the new, disease-resistant elms, which should work well in this storm system," Spinner said.
Downtown Burlington is no stranger to elm trees; they were present until the mid-20th century, when Dutch Elm Disease took its toll. But that shouldn't be the case this time around. The Cherry Street elm tree is expected to grow as high as 60 feet. We asked if strong winds could become problematic.
"I'm not concerned with that at all, because now we're gonna have a really good growing system for the tree," Spinner said.
At a cost of around $40,000, the Silva Cell tree system isn't cheap. It houses around 1,000 cubic feet of soil, which can treat a significant amount of stormwater.
"It's a really great operation to get both stormwater treated and provide water for growth of a tree," Spinner said.
In the future, officials hope to further expand the use of Silva Cell technology in downtown Burlington. This could minimize the days of driving through elevated stormwater in downtown Burlington.
More than half the project was funded through a local grant.