A greener look for the Evergreen State Fairgrounds

MONROE — Rain gardens, planter boxes and a new walkway are all part of a $323,400 project finished just in time for the Evergreen State Fair’s 100th birthday.

The project is intended to filter pollution from storm water before it hits the area’s waterways.

The project was paid for by a state Department of Ecology grant the county received last year.

Storm water running off roofs, lawns, roads and other surfaces is often polluted with oil, toxic metals and bacteria. As a result, it can pose serious problems for water quality in streams and aquifers.

The new features include swathes of porous pavement. Altogether, the changes will let rain soak into the ground, instead of washing straight into creeks, streams and rivers.

The highlight of the project is a new walkway in front of the longhouse, made out of porous concrete. It features artwork telling an American Indian legend about a young hunter.

Gregg Farris, of the Snohomish County Surface Water Management, said he is very excited about the way the project turned out.

Thousands of people going through the fair each day will see examples of how to build similar features on their own property to help keep the environment clean, he said.

“This is a perfect demonstration site because we get so many people. I think this is going to gain momentum. It makes a lot of sense,” Farris said.

At a dedication ceremony Friday, which featured a traditional American Indian blessing of the grounds, Farris led the group to one of the six rain gardens.

In a rain garden, plants grow in several different layers of soil that allows the water to percolate into the ground.

For those who don’t have enough space to build a rain garden, special planter boxes may be just right. They are designed with a layer of sand at the bottom to hold about 90 percent of water that falls on them.

Craig Young, who helped oversee the project, said it will really help change the way people see development.

“We somehow got this idea that if we have a lot of houses really close together we can’t have trees and soil. We can change that by being very intelligent in the way we build our infrastructure,” he said.

Young said new tools are becoming available that will reduce harmful effects on the environment. The county will be using more and more of these tools in the future.

Even so, the county is cautious when it comes to using low-impact development to manage the flow of storm water. The concept is relatively new and one of the challenges is to make sure the ideas will actually work and not cause a flood, Young said. He pointed to one of the rain gardens, which is equipped with a backup system of pipes. The water has somewhere to go if something goes wrong.

“There are always ways to make it work,” Young said.

Reporter Katya Yefimova: 425-339-3452 or kyefimova@heraldnet.com.

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