Stormwater Management Projects Strengthen Community after Tornado Hits

MAPLETON, Iowa - Local community organization Rebuild and Recover Mapleton has partnered with Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s (IDALS) Urban Conservationist Team as well as Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) to construct the Westside Stormwater Project to improve water quality, economic viability, and aesthetics of the rural town.

The Westside Stormwater Project was a needed improvement in the city’s landscape ever since Mapleton was struck by a tornado in April 2011, which wiped out 15,000 trees and caused storm water to collect pollutants and quickly run off into Mapleton’s river, affecting the entire surrounding watershed.

From those needs, the Westside Stormwater Project developed.

The landscaping was designed by Eric Doll, leader of urban landscape design firm Jeffrey L. Bruce and Company’s downtown Des Moines office.

Doll involved multiple water management strategies into the design of this project, “Native plants filter and slow down the water but also provide plants for pollinators and is an aesthetic improvement, as well as gabion baskets that are being installed that hold storm water back,” Doll said. “There is also erosion controls, basically a whole network of things designed to help slow down water headed towards the watershed.”

The Westside Stormwater project was made possible through the IEDA providing Mapleton’s community action group Rebuild and Recover Mapleton a federal community development block grant. IEDA has a competitive federal grant application for projects like Mapleton’s Westside Stormwater Project.

Jeff Geerts is the Special Projects Manager at IEDA and chose to give the grant to the Mapleton project.

 “We liked this project for disaster relief and flood mitigating.” Geerts said, “This project will demonstrate how to best do these projects in other rural communities, and we appreciate Mapleton’s leadership in giving this project a try.”

Rebuild and Recover Mapleton’s President Marie Whiteing stepped up to found Rebuild and Recover in the wake of the 2011 tornado, in efforts to revitalize the city of Mapleton after the natural disaster.

Among many successful and ongoing projects, Rebuild and Recover was able to build two trails and a trailhead, planted native prairies, and built bridges by bolstering community support and organizing volunteers.

Whiteing noted that “for every half inch Mapleton gets of rain, 1.6 million gallons run off into the river,” stressing the importance of the stormwater management in Mapleton.

Now that the Westside Stormwater project has been constructed and landscaped by Rebuild and Recover, IDALS, Jeffrey L. Bruce, Iowa State and other volunteers, Rebuild and Recover is excited to see the native flowers bloom.

“We’re impatient – we want to see it blossom and see aesthetically what we want with the Westside Stormwater Project,” Whiteing said.

“We worked really closely with IDALS. We want to make sure we are doing this project right,” Whiteing said. “Our team is broad and deep. It has to be. That’s what I’d tell any disaster relief community.”

“The biggest success is having Iowa Department of Land and Stewardship and the Iowa Economic Development Authority backing us. We couldn’t do this project without them,” Whiteing said.

Alex Rausch