Award 'showered' on Miller-Showers Park
Merit Award for Engineering Excellence given to park designers
By Michael Beal
The land located just north of 17th Street between College Avenue and Walnut Street has a storied history. Purchased for $1 by the city in 1921, it eventually became Miller-Showers Park. For the next 80 years it existed as an easily flooded and hardly used strip of land near the north entry to the city. After three years of construction from 2001 to 2004, the park is now more important and valuable to the city than ever.\n"There has been a plan for renovation because the park looked about the same as it did in 1921," said Parks and Recreation Director Mick Renneisen, who has been in the department for 25 years. "We envisioned something more usable, with a better aesthetic quality." \nBloomington's Miller-Showers Park was recently given the Merit Award for Engineering Excellence by the American Council of Engineering Companies of Indiana, a trade association serving many leading engineering firms across the state. Bloomington and R.W. Armstrong Associates, Inc., the engineering company that designed the park, were the recipients of the award. \n"Miller-Showers Park adds to the quality of life of our citizens in terms of practical environmental improvement, improved aesthetics and as a recreational opportunity," said Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan.\nIU student Kristin Knies uses the park for its recreational purposes and also appreciates the park's unique function, she said.\n"I've read all of the information on the park; it's kinda neat," Knies said, having just finished her last lap around the park's one-kilometer trail. "It's nice to have somewhere to go in the middle of the city without traffic." \nTim George, vice president of R.W. Armstrong, credits both the park's aesthetic quality and its environmental purpose for earning the award.\n"This is the only park to be engineered as a storm water treatment facility, and the best part is that it's all natural, by use of ponds and wetlands," George said. "A lot of the downtown Bloomington storm water flows directly to the area of the park." \nMiller-Showers is the first park in Indiana to be designed specifically as a storm water treatment facility. Because pavement cannot absorb rainwater, ponds and creeks located directly adjacent to streets or parking lots are more likely to be polluted, because of silt and sediment caused by erosion. Federal Government's Rule 13 was passed in 2003 requiring cities to tend to storm water for the sake of water quality.\n"We, as well as the Utilities Department, recognized an opportunity to create something valuable," Renneisen said. "As the community grew, erosion was occurring from the storm water from dirt, grease and oil, off of roofs, cars (and) streets." \nThe grasslands that surround the ponds of Miller-Showers Park act as a filtration system by absorbing storm water that comes from impervious surfaces such as streets and sidewalks. Storm water from more than 170 acres of downtown Bloomington drains into the area where the park is located. Without these grassy areas, the water located at the park, as well as in the adjacent Cascades Creek, would be subject to sedimentary pollutants in the form of rainwater.\n"The park is still a work in progress from a nature standpoint; a lot of the vegetation we planted that will filter out the contaminants has yet to develop," Renneisen said. "They're starting to take samples of the water to measure purity, and we will be able to compare its condition year to year once the plants at the park fully mature." \nHe said the city has estimated a 70 percent improvement in water quality. \n"The improvements to Miller-Showers Park serve to enhance the beautiful entryway into our city," Renneisen said in a statement Monday, "and also serve as an outdoor classroom for the natural process of stormwater management and treatment." \n-- Contact Staff Writer Michael Beal at firstname.lastname@example.org.