People frequenting downtown Davenport near 4th and Iowa streets may have noticed the arrival of nine sturdy wood benches along the sidewalks. The timber provides convenient sitting places for customers of the corner coffee shop or nearby apartment dwellers, but the truth is, the benches really are part of a $200,000 stormwater management project. Seating is a plus.

Each three-sided bench surrounds a cut in the sidewalk curb that opens to a 6-foot-square "tree pit" filled with soil and rock and planted with a tree.

As water comes "flying down the hill" during storms, it flows into the cuts and then the pits, decreasing flooding on streets, Brian Stineman, the city's natural resources manager, said.

Instead of hitting the curb and backing up on the street or overwhelming the storm sewers as it did previously, the water infiltrates into the ground and into a sub-drain tile that connects each of the nine pits, he said.

Finally, it flows to the storm sewer at 3rd and Iowa streets, but by the time it gets there, it has been cleansed and freed of litter, and its volume has been reduced, Stineman said.

Plus, "we are watering the trees (that were planted in the pits) for free," he said.

Normally, grates are installed to protect people from stumbling into tree pits,  but city staff came up with the idea of benches that would keep people out as well as provide seating.

Each bench is made of three hunks of lumber cut from trees that were downed on Credit Island. They were cut by a sawmill contractor who works for the city's forestry department, forester Chris Johnson said. They are part of the urban wood program that tries to give a second use to downed trees.

Another part of the stormwater project was to replace two lengths of the concrete sidewalk with brick-colored pavers spaced 1/4th of an inch apart with small crushed rock in between so that rain can fall through the cracks rather that running off into the street, Stineman said.

The trees on the 4th Street side are Kentucky coffee trees that have the potential to grow tall, while those on the Iowa side are a type of lilac that will stay small so as not to interfere with the electrical wires above.

The Downtown Davenport Partnership has taken responsibility for cleaning litter from the pits, Stineman said.

Funds for the project came from the state of Iowa. It is money that the city normally would have paid as interest on its loan to build the Westside Diversion Tunnel but that the state is "rebating" for clean water projects, Stineman said.

The work was performed by Langman Construction, Rock Island/Moline.

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