Launch Slideshow

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Dual-purpose dam

Dual-purpose dam

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    Designed for 100-year storms, the new dam has a double concrete weir and earthen embankments. Water flows through a 3-foot primary weir during normal weather. During storms, the lake stores an additional 522,750 cubic feet of water before overtopping the secondary, 70-foot-wide weir. Cascade blocks on the downstream side slow velocity, minimizing erosion and increasing dissolved oxygen levels for fish and macroinvertebrate. Photo: Merrie Carlock

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    The 42-acre preserve is home to great blue herons, cormorants, owls, red-tailed hawks, and waterfowl as well as red fox, mink, and deer. One of the few sites in southeast Oakland County with open water and wooded canopy, the preserve is a feeding and resting site for migrating songbirds and waterfowl as they pass over metropolitan Detroit. Map: Johnson Hill Land Ethics Studio

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    The 90-foot dam is anchored by pilings driven 40 feet deep. Once formwork was finished, concrete was piped into the forms. Photo: Merrie Carlock

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    Engineers used the dredging process to mimic the profile of a natural lake. Though on average 8 feet deep, some points are 10 to 12 feet. Sand spawning beds and native wetland plants on shallow shelves along the margins house turtles and shorebirds. Photo: Merrie Carlock

By Stephanie Johnston

PROJECT DETAILS:

What: Carpenter Lake Nature Preserve
Size: 42 acres
Owner: Southfield (Mich.) Public Works and Parks & Recreation departments
Planning and design: Environmental Consulting and Technology Inc.
Dam and lake restoration contractor: E.C. Korneffel Co., Trenton, Mich.
Fisheries management: Superior Environmental Corp.
Landscape architecture: Johnson Hill Land Ethics Studio, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Park development contractor: Washtenaw Inc., Ypsilanti, Mich.
Signage design: Littlefish Design Cost: $3.5 million
Funding:

  • $500,000 Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant for lake restoration and park development
  • $965,000 EPA Rouge River National Wet Weather Demonstration Grant for sediment removal, dam construction, lake restoration, and park development
  • $65,000 EPA Rouge River National Wet Weather Demonstration Grant for fisheries management project

The people who pack the 45-space parking lot of a nature preserve in Southfield, Mich., would be shocked to learn that some residents opposed it. And that the 42-acre oasis of greenery amid office complexes and malls in the inner-ring Detroit suburb took more than three decades to come to fruition.

Now, of course, everyone loves it. Its 6-acre lake is the only place within 20 miles to go fishing, and the bass and bluegill are good eating.

“Most neighbors see it as an asset,” says Stormwater Manager Brandy Siedlaczek, a certified stormwater manager. “But even though the community had long supported the park's acquisition, some saw it as an invasion of privacy.”

Although parks are increasingly integral to managing stormwater, Siedlaczek hadn't worked with the city's parks & recreation department. But in 2003, after 30 years of legal wrangling, the city finally acquired most of what now constitutes the preserve. Siedlaczek spied a funding possibility both departments could use, and asked Park Planner/Landscape Architect Merrie Carlock to help pursue a mutually beneficial project.

Since then, they've partnered on stream bank stabilizations, permeable parking lots, reflective tennis courts, bioswales, interpretive signage on watersheds and now, the final phase in the nature preserve's development: building a LEED-certified facility that provides a vital (and required) educational component.