As snow melts fast, Drake stormwater students size up downtown

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Drake University environmental science and policy students, from left, Caitlin Ryan, Shanna McCormack and Tyler Rhimes came to Perry Friday morning to look for suitable spots to introduce improvements in downtown stormwater management by means of green infrastructure.

Drake environmental science and policy students, from left, Caitlin Ryan, Tyler Rhimes and Shanna McCormack said the Rotary Club garden in Caboose Park in downtown Perry is a good example of managing stormwater using green infrastructure.
Drake environmental science and policy students, from left, Caitlin Ryan, Tyler Rhimes and Shanna McCormack said the Rotary Club garden in Caboose Park in downtown Perry is a good example of managing stormwater be means of green infrastructure.

Friday’s snow melt offered a perfect opportunity for three Drake University students to see at first hand where green infrastructure could be introduced in order to improve stormwater management in the downtown cultural district.

Shanna McCormack, Tyler Rhimes and Caitlin Ryan, all seniors in environmental science and policy at Drake, set out from the Perry Public Library on a walking tour of the downtown area, hunting for likely spots for a bioswale, rain garden or permeable pavement.

“Sometimes even simple and small changes make a big impact,” Ryan said, noting the right kind of vegetation planted along the Raccoon River Valley Trail, for instance, could help manage stormwater inflow.

McCormack, Rhimes and Ryan are members of two groups of Drake environmental science and policy students who are collaborating with the city of Perry, the latest in an 18-month partnership between town and gown. Their group is looking at strategies for managing stormwater runoff in the downtown area, and the other is looking for ways to improve habitat and water quality in Frog Creek.

“We’re here today to look around the historical district and creek to see where the water’s flowing and see where improvements might be needed,” Rhimes said. The Wisconsin native said assessing the town’s current drainage infrastructure is part of their preliminary planning.

Once the class compiles its data, including detailed ArcGIS mapping of Frog Creek and the downtown’s drainage patterns, they will make recommendations.

“We’re looking for any way to slow the stormwater down before it enters the pipes,” McCormack said. She and Ryan are high school friends from the Kansas City area who came to Drake for the environmental science program.

McCormack and Rhimes are both looking toward law school after graduation, probably in the area of environmental law. Ryan said she will probably work for a research center or non-profit organization for a year or two before thinking about graduate study.

The other 15 members of the Drake capstone course, led by Dr. Keith Summerville, will be in Perry next month for further study, including mapping Frog Creek for snags, eroded stream banks and storm-sewer entry points.

Drake students, from left, Caitlin Ryan, Shanna McCormack and Taylor Rhimes consider ways stormwater runoff from the Raccoon River Valley Trail could be managed during their walking tour Friday of the downtown cultural district.
Drake students, from left, Caitlin Ryan, Shanna McCormack and Tyler Rhimes consider ways stormwater runoff from the Raccoon River Valley Trail could be managed during their walking tour Friday of the downtown cultural district.

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