Slavin Court Community Transforms Stormwater Path

Jennifer Seamans, Watershed Center Manager, 503-823-2862 or

Volunteers digging up grass lawn
Volunteers begin replacing a muddy path (back) with a porous walkway by using a broadfork from the WRC tool shed to decompact the soil and remove lawn, the dense root mat of which increases runoff.  Photos: Jennifer Seamans


When residents at the Slavin Court apartment community in the South Portland neighborhood met with SW Watershed Resource Center (WRC) staff Jen Seamans and Sanjane Ceesay in March 2016, several project ideas for common areas of the property were immediately suggested. Families wanted areas where they could grow vegetables. A few people voiced concerns about the pavement next to the playground creating a small pond when it rained. Older youth wanted areas where they could put their creativity and ideas into action.

One issue, however, rose unanimously to the top of the list: the muddy path leading to the bus stop and overflow parking on Slavin Rd. Stormwater runoff from winter rains created a large and persistent muddy section. Kids sloshed through it every day on their way to school, and adults navigated it carefully on their way to and from work.

Drawing on momentum from the March meeting, plans surged forward for a new porous pathway with native plant landscaping to alleviate the mud and manage stormwater runoff. Every Tuesday afternoon, youth and WRC staff worked together. Elementary, middle and high school students helped define the project, measured the site for material quantities, and put together a plant species list. WRC staff created an operations and maintenance plan with HomeForward site managers to ensure the staff capacity, volunteer time and supplies invested in the project will be sustained into the future.

Helping set filter fabric
Helping set filter fabric and gravel

Within two short weeks, the site was transformed. The dense root mat of grass next to the path was making the mud worse, so the first step in the project was to remove it. Next, everyone got a chance to wield a broadfork (on loan from the WRC tool shed) to decompact the top layers of soil.

On a Saturday, April 16th, 2016, and the week that followed, 31 neighbors from Slavin Court, as well as staff from HomeForward (the property owner and manager) and the WRC put in over 200 collective hours of work at the site. A 40'-long trench was dug for the new path, then lined with filter fabric and filled with gravel.

Throughout the new landscaping area, the group incorporated several inches of compost into the soil, as well as a beneficial, biologically active soil amendment to jumpstart a healthy soil ecosystem and help manage runoff. Youth and adults installed over 150 native plants that were selected for seasonally wet soils, stormwater management and benefit to insects and other wildlife.

As the project reached completion, both residents and visitors from other community organizations remarked on how much was accomplished within a short period of time, how beautiful it looks, and how nice it is to walk on. Slavin Court volunteers have a lot to be proud of. The people at Slavin Court, and the Terwilliger Creek watershed as a whole, will benefit from their good work for years to come.

Inspecting plants
WRC Watershed Program Specialist Sanjane Ceesay inspects new plantings and the porous gravel pathway. 1/4x10 gravel has been graded to remove small diameter material, increasing its capacity to store stormwater runoff. Native plants used here are adapted to seasonally wet soils. Compost and biologically active amendments mimic historic forest/shrub soils, and support healthy soil ecology, which improves pore space for rain and slows runoff.