A Lasting Impression

A 2009 report from the U.S. Global Change Research Program supports what many have recently experienced–rainfall and flooding are on the rise. There is a clear trend toward heavier precipitation in the U.S. as a whole, and particularly in the Midwest and Northeast.

Planting wildflowers in wooded areas can reduce stormwater runoff

Since 1958, Midwesterners have experienced a 31-percent increase in the heaviest precipitation events, while those in the Northeast have experienced a staggering 67-percent increase.

If this trend continues, flooding and stormwater-related issues will continue to affect the development, function and outdoor programming of camps.

In addition to the direct effect on camp facilities–the flooding of buildings, play fields and program areas–the future development of camps will certainly be affected as land-use regulations and stormwater-management requirements become increasingly strict.

Therefore, it is essential that camps begin to understand how best to address these issues on their properties today, and plan for them in the future.

The following are ways in which a camp can address stormwater management as well as educate campers.

Importance Of Managing Stormwater

Many camps are situated on or associated with a body of water, which is typically the geographic low point of elevation and thus is the collection point for rainwater and snowmelt that falls on the camp and surrounding areas.

As a natural resource, these bodies of water are a critical asset to the camp’s outdoor program, providing swimming and boating (two of the most popular camp activities), and are likewise an important selling point to prospective campers. Therefore, protection of this resource is critical to a camp’s long-term success.

As rain falls and snow melts and runs across the ground surface, it is referred to as stormwater runoff. This runoff has the potential to pick up and carry along small particles of sediment and phosphorus from bare soil areas, petroleum products and sand or grit from paved drives and parking lots, and fertilizer components from lawn areas and ball fields.

The runoff then carries these impurities to nearby receiving waters, such as a stream, river, pond or lake, thus degrading the quality of the water. Over time, these impurities will destroy fish habitat, create algae blooms, lead to mucky swimming areas, and increase maintenance costs.

To minimize the negative effects, camps should address stormwater runoff as close to the source as possible where they can be more readily treated. Also, a successful stormwater-management program must utilize several small solutions throughout a property, rather than one “catch-all” solution for the entire property.

A bioswale

The following list provides several easy steps camps can take to minimize stormwater runoff concerns:

• Maintain a tree canopy wherever possible. A tree’s leaves or needles intercept raindrops, and thus prevent heavy rains from pounding the ground surface and washing the vegetation out or eroding the soil.

• Make sure all ground surfaces are covered with understory vegetation or mulch (bark mulch, wood chips, pine needles, etc.) so there are no bare soil areas. Sloped areas with trails and paths are particularly prone to erosion, and therefore need to be protected.

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