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Great Lakes Article:

Bayfront water garden designer sees big things in small package
By Chuck Fredrick
Duluth News Tribune
May 4, 2004

Staring across slate-blue Lake Superior for the first time this weekend, an internationally known landscape designer who preaches that art can help heal the Earth couldn't help but think about her father.

He worked on a Great Lakes icebreaker, perhaps in Duluth. Patricia Johanson doesn't know for certain.

"That was my attraction to this project," said Johanson, who almost certainly will be working in Duluth on a project far smaller than her norm.

The New York woman has been tapped by the nonprofit Sweetwater Alliance to design a living water garden at Bayfront Festival Park. The garden would serve as a model for Duluth residents and visitors. They would be able to see how plants and rocks can be used at home to capture rainwater and runoff, to filter out pollutants and, finally, to release cleaner water into Lake Superior.

"This project says wetlands are important," said Johanson, who will share her vision during a slide show and presentation today. "This is a project that's meant to be. It's an educational tool. It's small, but it's important."

Johanson works with engineers, city planners, scientists and citizens' groups to create art and park space that also serves environmental functions, such as filtering sewage or making dirty water drinkable.

Her body of work includes the $30 million baywalk around San Francisco's Candlestick Park State Recreation Area that's also a sewer basin and the 912-acre,$200 million Ulsan Park in Seoul, South Korea. The interactive garden cleanses decades of water pollution.

In Duluth, the living water garden's function will be filtering and cleaning rainwater and snow melt from Interstate 35 and from downtown before it can reach the harbor. Stormwater runoff needs cleaning because it often contains car oil, road salt and other pollutants.

The living water garden is planned for a half-acre parcel along Railroad Street, just west of the Bayfront stage. A stormwater pipe there and a planned parking area would serve as sources of polluted water.

Construction costs for the water garden haven't been determined and won't be until the attraction is designed.

Johanson's design work is expected to be paid for with a matching $58,000 grant from the Minnesota Lake Superior Coastal Program. Sweetwater Alliance has collected about $22,000 so far. The nonprofit must raise the rest of the match by year's end.

It could be three years before the water garden is built, Sweetwater Alliance Executive Director Jill Jacoby said.

"We're getting there," Jacoby said. "We're making progress and working really hard."

The living water garden is the only portion of the Bayfront Master Plan that is moving forward. City councilors unanimously approved the garden in October 2002. The remainder of the plan is expected to be revised and approved once Duluth's new planning director, Bob Bruce, begins work in June.

Johanson and Jacoby hope the new living water garden connects Bayfront and Canal Park. They envision an extended Lakewalk, commercial fishing boats docked nearby and children pulling their parents toward the garden from the adjacent Playfront playground.

"People have been working on this for a long time. It will bring so many benefits to the community beyond just having a garden," Johanson said. "This can educate about water quality. It can teach people so much."


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