Timber benches

The cut in the curb allows water to flow into a "tree pit" along Iowa Street in Davenport. 

JEFF COOK, QUAD-CITY TIMES

The city of Davenport has installed some new benches near a downtown coffee shop.

They're an attractive addition to the neighborhood's landscape, but they're really a lot more than that.

The benches themselves have a good story of recycle/reuse, but their real purpose is to protect people from falling into a innovative stormwater management project.

The location is along the south side of 4th Street just west of Iowa Street and along the west side of Iowa south toward 3rd Street. Redband Coffee Co. operates a store at that corner, and there are several new urban housing units nearby.

Along those streets, some of the curbing has been cut out, which allows rainwater to flow into six-foot-square "tree pits" The idea is that during storms, some of the water rushing down the hill will go into the tree pits, reducing street flooding.

The pits are connected by sub-drain tile so the rainwater eventually will make it to a storm sewer at 3rd and Iowa, but several good things happen before that. First, the volume of water entering the sewer will be reduced as the ground absorbs some of it. Second, the tree pits and the ground will filter the rainwater of debris. As a benefit, too, the trees in the nine tree pits will get water they need to thrive.

Davenport's natural resources manager, Brian Stineman, told Times reporter Alma Gaul the project should help decrease flooding on the streets and decrease the possibility of storm sewers becoming overwhelmed.

But there's a problem: The tree pits are just that, holes in the sidewalk that are a hazard.

Such pits usually are covered with grates, but that's when city staff came up with the much better idea of using benches to protect pedestrians. These aren't just any benches, either. They were cut from downed trees on Credit Island and they now have a second life after a contractor for the city's forestry department cut them for the project.

The area is further beautified by brick-colored pavers that replaced portions of the sidewalk.

And some of the maintenance — specifically cleaning litter from the pits — will be done, not by city staff, but through an agreement with the Downtown Davenport Partnership.

The $200,000 project was financed by the state of Iowa, which allowed the city to pay for the project with money it would have paid as interest on a loan to build the Westside Diversion Tunnel.

When you get a chance, take a break on one of the new benches at 4th and Iowa in Davenport. You can ponder how the city, the state, the Downtown Partnership and others have worked together to reduce stormwater problems and make the city a more attractive place at the same time.

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