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‘Floating wetlands’ at Squiota Park aim to reduce algae

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Students installing a floating wetland in Texas. A similar installation is planned at Sequiota Lake in Springfield on May 2.

A pilot project designed to help reduce algae at Sequiota Park be launched at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, May 2, by the Springfield-Greene County Park Board, in partnership with the City of Springfield’s Department of Environmental Services.

Located at 3500 S. Lone Pine Ave in Galloway, Sequiota is one of the areas’s oldest public parks, and has a rich history as a favorite leisure attraction. In recent year, the park has received a major upgrade.

Floating wetlands in the park’s lake as a man-made aquatic plant habitat, created to mimic a natural wetland ecosystem by providing shade and wildlife cover, and by absorbing excess nutrients in waterways.

Park and city staff will be on hand for interviews and there will be plenty of video/photo opportunities of wetland construction and launching into the lake.

The lake at Sequiota Park has experienced noticeable algae blooms in recent summers, caused by a combination of warm temperatures, sunlight and excess nutrients washed into the lake.

Stormwater runoff from as far north as Sunshine Street flows downhill into Sequiota Park and Galloway Creek, bringing with it fertilizers, animal waste and other pollutants

Droppings from Canada geese at the park also contribute to the algae growth. Parks staff regularly treats the water with environmentally friendly algaecide, but the algae is persistent in summer months.

“Sequiota is a very popular park, enjoyed by a large number of our patrons, so the lake is very visible,” says Miles Park, Assistant Parks Director. “It has been a challenge to manage the algae at that lake, so it seemed like that would be a good place to try the floating wetlands.”

Aquatic plants in a floating wetland help absorb excess nutrients in the water, reducing algae growth and providing dissolved oxygen, which benefits fish. Fish also find habitat in the root mass, which provides shade, shelter and a place to feed on smaller organisms.

The floating wetlands at Sequiota are made of 4’x8’ cedar frames, holding together a sandwich of recycled plastic bottles with caps on, for floatation; recycled burlap cocoa bean bags, containing the bottles; two layers of coconut fiber, surrounding the bags and providing plant medium; and recycled plastic mesh, holding the fiber layers in place. The corners of each frame are stabilized by metal corner plates, made from recycled street signs and stainless bolts. Recycled materials were used to make the project as sustainable as possible, with bottles collected by city employees, and cocoa bean bags donated by Askinosie Chocolate in Springfield.

Employees of Springfield Public Works Street Maintenance and the Department of Environmental Services constructed 30 frames for the project

An artist’s rendering shows the concept for a floating wetland. With appropriate water plants, they island is intended to control algae and provide habitat for fish and birds.

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On Wednesday, staff will populate each frame with native Missouri aquatic plants, fence them with wire to keep geese from eating the plants, and launch them into the lake, tethered to one another and to anchors.

The floating wetlands are designed to last several years, enough time to allow aquatic plants to establish themselves in the lake without the need for additional structures. But organizers emphasized that results may not immediately be visible.

“Our goal with this pilot project is to see if floating wetlands are an effective tool to add to our toolbox for managing algae growth,” explains Carrie Lamb, Water Quality Compliance Officer with the Department of Environmental Services. “We do not expect to eliminate the algae completely and we may not see a reduction in the first year, because the plants need time to grow. We hope to see a noticeable reduction in algae growth over time.”

To learn more about ways to reduce stormwater pollution and protect water quality, visit springfieldmo.gov/stormwater.

For more information, contact Carrie Lamb, Water Quality Compliance Officer, Department of Environmental Services, at 417-864-1996; or Jenny Fillmer Edwards, Public Information Administrator for the Springfield-Greene County Park Board, at 417-874-2943 (office) or 417-224-5510 (mobile) or email Jenny Edwards.

(Photo: Employees of Springfield Public Works – Street Maintenance and the Department of Environmental Services constructed 30 frames for the project. Additional hi-res construction photos are available.)

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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