Bringing public art into stormwater management


Call for artists to design features at a new park in Woodbury

At first glance, the Bartelmy-Meyer neighborhood in Maplewood looks like a typically suburban enclave. The homes sit in orderly rows, surrounded by gardens, lawns, and trees, with a city park in nearby walking distance. If you stroll through the neighborhood in summer, however, you may notice that the sidewalks are etched with a pattern of concentric circles, much like the ripples that spread from a stone tossed into a lake on the kind of day when the air is soft and the birdsong charming.

The neighborhood is actually the site of a “Living Streets” demonstration project, led by the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District and City of Maplewood in 2012, with grant support from the Minnesota Clean Water Fund. As part of the project, the watershed district and city worked together to complete a series of seemingly small, but significant changes that dramatically reduced stormwater runoff, increased green space, and improved safety for children and pedestrians.

The first step in the Maplewood Living Streets project was to shrink road widths from 30 to 24 feet to reduce the total amount of impervious surface and encourage drivers to slow down. Project partners then retrofitted the road right-of-ways to add 32 raingardens, 200 boulevard trees, and 1.5 miles of sidewalk. The pièce de résistance for this neighborhood transformation were the water drop ripples, etched into the sidewalk to add beauty and illustrate the connection between our A growing number of watershed management organizations are recognizing the value of public art to beautify otherwise boring stormwater management projects, illustrate connections between built and natural environments, and explain technical processes in new and creative ways. Other prominent examples in the Twin Cities area include a stormwater retrofit project at Maplewood Mall, also led by Ramsey- Washington Metro Watershed District; artistic components along the Green Line railway corridor in St. Paul, designed by Capitol Region Watershed District with support from artist Christine Baeumler; and a stormwater capture and reuse system plus habitat restoration completed at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, in partnership with the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization.

Artists are also engaging as community thought leaders in the Minnesota Water Steward program, which is led by nonprofit Freshwater, in partnership with area watershed organizations. Participants in the Art for Water program attend 50-hours of online and in-person training to learn about the science, policy, and social dimensions of water management in Minnesota. They then receive a small stipend to design and implement public art projects in their communities.

Now, South Washington Watershed District has issued a call for artists to design up to three art installations for a new park in Woodbury. This small, 5.5 acre space, to be called Hasenbank Stormwater Park, will connect local neighborhoods with a loop trail around Powers Lake. The park will also include numerous stormwater treatment features to filter runoff before it reaches the lake. The watershed district is offering artists $8,000 for their design time, plus up to $100,000 for fabrication and installation. Barr Engineering will provide additional engineering design for the project if needed. The future art could include educational signs, a visual representation of water moving through the park, or creative features that illustrate the ecology and history of the land.

To learn more about the Hasenbank Stormwater call for artists or submit a proposal, visit A Zoom information session will be held on Thursday, February 2 at 7:00 p.m. and proposals are due on February 24 at 3:00 p.m.