Dell done: Meadow Creek breathes again

The latest piece of UVA's effort to bring daylight to the Meadow Creek and keep storm waters from becoming flood waters will be officially opened Friday in a media briefing.

The "New Dell," as it's now called, features an L-shaped pond on Emmet Street and 1,200 feet of Meadow Creek that had previously been trapped underground in a pipe.

Stretching from the UVA cemetery on Alderman Road to Emmet Street between Alumni Hall and the Education School, the Dell has recently been little more than a soggy bog by the road.

Now, says the project director Richard B. Laurance, it's a "showcase" featuring the latest in sustainable storm-water management.

The pond, after all, isn't just a pond. Incoming creek water drops down from a concrete-and-stone spillway into a "forebay," a special section of the pond designed to capture sediment. During heavy rains, overflows will spill into two "bio-filtration" basins.

The idea, says the UVA landscape architect Mary Hughes, is to recharge ground-water supplies, keep pollutants out of waterways, and reduce flooding.

"It's been tested in the recent rain storms," says Hughes, "and we see some tweaking that needs doing, but the system seems to be working very well."

Meadow Creek flows downhill to the Dell from Observatory Hill. But in the 1950s, conventional wisdom dictated putting the waterway in a pipe. Today's planners realize that such non-porous structures deprive the stream of its natural ability to harbor wildlife, cleanse the water, and deal with voluminous storm flows.

UVA's storm-water management efforts aren't limited to the Dell. A bio-filtration basin was unveiled last year at the new parking garage on Ivy Road.

In all, UVA expects to spend about $3 million on storm-water management by the end of 2006, says Laurance. The figure includes $1.2 million spent at the Dell, as well as work at the new basketball arena, the Ivy Road parking deck, and the proposed North Grounds Connector from the Route 250 Bypass.

The Dell was once the Italian gardens at the home of UVA prof and grounds superintendent William Lambeth. One late-twentieth century feature is the statue of two fighting stags. Last month, after spending the winter outside the construction trailer at the rising arena, the stags returned to the Dell.

"They're nicely placed in the woods there," says Laurence, "so they blend in."

The "daylighting" of Meadow Creek was the subject of
The Hook 's August 14, 2003 cover story.