A mountain brook blooms in Baltimore

At Cold Spring and Alameda, the gurgling can drown out the traffic

August 04, 2008|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Sun reporter

Here's a cure for the noise, the tumult and the cares of modern urban living: Just install a 60-foot mountain brook in your backyard, fill it with boulders and river rock, lotus and sweet flag, rain lily and bog bean, then switch on the waterfalls.

Like magic yesterday, a little corner of green space at Cold Spring Lane and The Alameda came alive with gurgles and splashes that nearly drowned out the rattle and roar of the traffic a few feet away.

The new, 16,000-gallon recirculating mountain stream is a gift from nearly a dozen contractors assembled in Baltimore this week for the National Pond Expo and Conference - a convention of "pondscapers" from across the country and abroad.

The recipient of their largesse - valued at nearly $100,000 in labor and materials - is the League for People with Disabilities, which each year provides therapy, day care, employment training and other services for about 3,000 people with physical, neurological and developmental disabilities each year.

Dedication ceremonies are scheduled for 10 a.m. tomorrow.

The new mountain stream, tucked up alongside the League's therapy pool building on Cold Spring Lane, is intended to add to the existing gardens, lawn and quiet spaces that enclose the facility on two sides - all designed to give clients and their families space to think, and to relax.

"Listening to water landing helps drown out the sound of the city streets, and the stress in your mind. I think there will be lots of therapeutic benefits," said David A. Greenberg, the League's president and CEO.

The League's Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Campus was suggested for the project by the TKF Foundation in Annapolis, which funds the construction of quiet urban green spaces it calls "Sacred Spaces" in the region, Greenberg said.

The National Pond Expo liked the choice, and selected the site for its convention training seminar, held each year in its convention city for the water-feature contractors who attend.

Four dozen of them, caked in mud, were on the job this weekend, teaching or learning as they prepared the 60-by-16-foot site. They began by laying down the felt and rubber liners, placing boulders trucked in from Tennessee, and laying Maryland river stone in the stream bed - 15 tons of rock in all.

"In order to get a natural-looking water feature, the rocks and boulders you select is very important," said Rick Bartel, an instructor from the Savio Water Feature Institute in New Mexico, who supervised the job. "You want rounded surfaces and character lines - grooves and ridges, good surface texture and rounded shapes so it does not look too man-made." A little moss and lichen on the stone is a bonus.

Placement was critical too. In a water test yesterday, the rocks, logs and boulders deftly split the water into rushing courses and quiet trickles, through a calm, lotus-filled pond, and white-water rapids. At the stream's end, the water vanished into a 2,600-gallon underground reservoir, to be pumped back to the top of the run and used again.

Later, others like Rob Price of Shemin Nurseries in Burtonsville supervised the installation of ink berry, maple and eastern red cedars that surround the stream. Kelly Billing, from Maryland Aquatics in Jarrettsville, fussed over the lotus plants, pickerel rushes and sweet flag that will inhabit the water.

Billing said she chose plants for their "history and charm" as much as for their color, texture and hardy nature. Of the lotus, with its giant leaves and exotic seed pods and flowers, she said, "It's cool. The more you learn about it, the more you love it."

Even unfinished yesterday, the new habitat was attracting butterflies, mud-dauber wasps and dragonflies. Already designated as a wildlife refuge and sanctuary by the National Wildlife Federation, the stream's intricate features and rich foliage are expected to offer food and shelter for a rich variety of birds, insects and amphibians in the months and years to come.

Although the area is protected by a fence and security cameras, Greenberg said the League's gate on Cold Spring Lane will be open during business hours to allow the public to enjoy the new mountain stream.

frank.roylance@baltsun.com

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