STARKVILLE — The grounds of the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum are being transformed this week into a series of self-sustaining gardens as construction continues on a first-of-its-kind landscaping project in Starkville.
Landscape architecture students from Mississippi State University constructed a rain garden next to the museum last year, which uses storm runoff from half of the museum”s roof to water its plants. But the garden was only the first phase of a five-year project designed to alleviate storm water runoff issues at the museum and provide examples of best management practices, or BMPs, for developers and contractors who could implement similar designs in the future, said Wayne Wilkerson, a professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture at MSU who is helping spearhead the project.
The second phase of the project began April 12 and could be complete by the end of next week, Wilkerson said.
Gulf States Manufacturing is donating gutters, which will drain rainwater from the remaining half of the museum roof into a sand filter on the ground below. The sand filter is a box, 50 feet long and 5 feet wide, which contains 6 inches of gravel topped with 15-18 inches of sand. The plan is to grow plants and flowers in the box. The process is designed to slow down and filter the storm water, Wilkerson said.
“The idea is to run water in here and see if this structure will hold water, just like one of the other BMPs,” he said. “So the goal is to slow down the water flow and have control over water quality and quantity. Like the city knows, our infrastructure needs revamping and it”s very expensive to do that.
“Any time you do storm, sewer and stuff, it costs a lot of money, so if we can do these kinds of solutions, it”s a lot more cost-effective for government agencies. It”s also better for homeowners, and it”s better for the environment.”
After water drains through the sand filter, it will flow into a rock-filled swale, which will be surrounded by grass and plants. Landscape architecture students built up the area around the base of the museum, where runoff was eroding the building”s foundation, so water will flow away from the building and into the swale. Water will flow from the swale into city drainage systems.
During the third phase of the project, planned for next year, road crews would remove an asphalt parking area along Fellowship Street and extend the grass area next to the museum. A building with a “green” roof, on which vegetation would grow, also is planned as part of the third phase.
During the fourth phase, planned for the fourth year of the project, crews would remove asphalt in a parking area in front of the sand filter and replace it with a pervious surface, which would allow storm water to seep into the ground below.
For the fifth phase, students would build a cistern, which could collect, store and redistribute rainwater throughout the site.
“So, at some point, we”d like to say that we”ve got this site so it”s totally self-sustaining in terms of water quantity,” Wilkerson said.
Wilkerson is encouraging others to develop similar projects.
“My mission, my personal goal, is to educate contractors and developers, and that”s why we have to get (BMPs) in place — to show them that they work,” Wilkerson said. “We want to have this available to show people you can do it. It”s just not in the book, but it can be cost-effective and attractive.”
“I think that”s the most important part,” Ward 3 Alderman Eric Parker said. “Showing local developers, engineers and builders that this is real-world application stuff. We”ve got to transfer it from the university to the community. I think this is a great example of an implementation that everybody in this area could use.”
MSU professor Cory Gallo is working with Wilkerson and their students on the project.
Mississippi State University is partnering with Oktibbeha County, Starkville, Gulf States Manufacturers and Oktibbeha County Master Gardeners.
The Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum is located at the corner of Russell Street and Fellowship Street in Starkville.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.