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The Stormwater Runoff 5K

Stormwater Runoff 5K Trail RunRunners David Burnett and Alison Pottage finishing the race. (Photo Pete Bannan)

When I hear about an innovative way to get people interested in the impacts of stormwater, I have to share it. The Lower Merion Conservancy embarked on this ambitious and exciting project designed to get their community talking about stormwater -- a 5k trail run called the "Stormwater Runoff." In this special guest blog, Patrick Gardener (Conservation Coordinator) and Chelsea Heck (Education Coordinator) of the Lower Merion Conservancy share about their experiences of organizing this cool event.

There is nothing sexy about stormwater.  During a storm, runoff is quickly taken underground, out of sight, and unfortunately out of mind. In a township with over 100 miles of stormwater pipes and over 550 stormwater outlets, Lower Merion Township (LMT) needed a crazy idea to get people thinking about stormwater in a new way.  Enter the 2013 Stormwater Runoff: 5k Trail Run, the result of a collaborative effort of the Lower Merion Conservancy and Lower Merion Township’s Environmental Advisory Council.

The Lower Merion Conservancy, headquartered in Gladwyne’s Rolling Hill Park began working with the Township’s Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) on this idea over 6 years ago. As the Township began working on a Comprehensive Plan that included a stormwater component,  both groups felt it was the perfect time to launch the race.

Top Finisher, Mike Deasey, with a time of 20:04. (Photo Pete Bannan)

The torrential downpour over the two days leading up to the race saw brought over 1 inch of rain, leading to more than one teachable moment on the morning of the race, October 12th. 79 runners, aging from 11 to 65, took on the challenging course that started at the mouth of Mill Creek and climbed its way up the trails of Rolling Hill Park. The steep slopes of the park made for a challenging racecourse.  The trails in the park are heavily used, which has led to major compaction and an increase in the amount of stormwater runoff and erosion during precipitation events. “There is no clearer way to send a message about stormwater runoff than to run with the stormwater,” stated Patrick Gardner, the Conservancy’s Conservation Coordinator and overseer of the Conservancy’s StreamWatch Program.

Winning Runners!Winning Runners!

Spectators and runners saw first-hand the impact of Stormwater Runoff at the starting line in Flat Rock Park where Mill Creek enters the Schuylkill. The Schuylkill River was the backdrop for all of the festivities on race day. Its muddy waters were spotted with litter from upstream flowing past the race - one 6-year-old spectator was excited to share that he had seen a lawn chair floating down the river! Although it was a sad sight to see, it was a glaring reminder that we all share our water resources – and the responsibility to take care of them.

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