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Protecting The Environmental Integrity of Lake Roland

The developers and designers of the Bluestem development in the Bare Hills community have gone to great lengths to ensure the project will exist harmoniously on the boundary of the Lake Roland park and help to both maintain and improve the natural surroundings. In order to achieve these goals, the developers have committed to the following actions.

Conservation Through Redevelopment

Many of the watershed properties surrounding Lake Roland are dated, and as such, the stormwater management systems do not meet modern codes and regulations. One such regulation pertains to the concept of “100-year storms,” meaning stormwater management systems should be able to accomodate the vastly increased stormwater output from a storm that has a one-percent statistical chance of occuring in any given year (as we saw exemplified in Ellicott City in 2016 and 2018). As they are currently built, these watershed properties cannot adequately accommodate such a storm. Through the redevelopment efforts that will occur with the Bluestem development, modern stormwater management systems will be created that meet all the current standards which ultimately positively impacts the surrounding properties.

Additionally, there are several homes surrounding the lake currently which are using outdated septic systems. These septic systems allow untreated water to make its way directly into the lake, posing serious environmental and human health hazards. In comparison, the Bluestem development will be implementing modern water treatment systems that meet very stringent commercial codes. Ultimately, through the use of modern techniques and an adherence to current regulations, the Bluestem development’s waste management infrastructure will serve to improve Lake Roland’s water purity and safety in ways older systems simply cannot.

One of the watershed properties which will be redeveloped to create Bluestem, a mulch tumbler site, has for years wreaked havoc on the delicate ecosystem of Lake Roland and the park surrounding it. The environmental hazards of mulch tumblers are twofold: they cast non-native seeds into the surrounding ecosystem, and they send noxious run-off into the lake, which ultimately flows into the Jones Falls and Baltimore Harbor. This negatively impacts the water quality not only for Baltimore county residents, but city residents as well. By removing the mulch tumbler, the water quality of Lake Roland and surrounding bodies of water will be immediately and positively impacted.

Thoughtful Consideration of the Ecosystem

Human & Rohde, one of two landscape architects and environmental planners for Bluestem, are deeply knowledgeable about Lake Roland Park and have played a major role in several of the park projects, including the dog park, boardwalk and several amenity improvements. All aforementioned projects were designed and implemented with an intentional eye on the environmental impact, and were designed in a way so as to disturb as little of the natural surroundings as possible. Using this prior experience, the architects at Human & Rohde will be able to redevelop with a keen sense of the unique environmental characteristics of the park and implement other boardwalk-style paths that connect park-goers and residents of Bluestem without interfering with the delicate ecosystem and micro climates of the park.

The developers have made several purposeful decisions to ensure Lake Roland’s delicate and unique ecosystem remains unaffected—and even enhanced—by the Bluestem development. The physical placement of the development is very close to Falls Road, allowing for a larger transition space between the development and the native woodlands. This transition will be gradual, instead of the typical fenced-in barrier that many developments have implemented. The developers also spent extensive time studying the microclimates that exist within the park, and they have maintained an open dialogue with park staff about the removal of the invasive Virginia Pine, which has crowded out the prairie grasses that would naturally inhabit the unique serpentine areas of Lake Roland. Because Lake Roland is one of only four remaining areas in Maryland with a naturally-occuring serpentine barren, a prairie-like grassland area existing on dry, nutrient-poor soil and rock, the Bluestem developers feel strongly about maintaining its integrity in every way possible.

In regards to native plants, the Bluestem developers have taken a proactive approach to maintaining the integrity of the natural spaces surrounding the development by carefully choosing which types of plants will be involved in the landscaping process. Inspired by the unique habitat and rock formations of Lake Roland, the landscape developers have chosen a plant palette that implements native plantings, including the bluestem for which the development is named. This palette not only pays homage to Lake Roland’s unique environment, but also creates a unique space that will be attractive to boutique shops rather than national brands.

Apartment-dwellers will also be informed about the delicate nature of the local ecosystem with information packets included in their lease agreement. These packets will make suggestions about the types of plants tenants are encouraged to keep within their homes and in outdoor spaces and which may be considered invasive or harmful to the surrounding flora and fauna. This education campaign will be continued with signage surrounding the walkways through the park that will explain to park-goers the importance of staying on developed pathways and avoiding contact with the serpentine ecosystem. By providing this information, the Bluestem developers will help to encourage those who live at Bluestem to become stewards of Lake Roland.