Miller-Showers Park: Bloomington utilities and parks formalizing arrangements on who pays for what

The cost of maintaining the lagoon retention walls at Miller-Showers Park will be split between city of Bloomington utilities (CBU) and the city’s parks and recreation department.

The utilities service board (USB) approved its side of the arrangement at its regular meeting on Monday night. The same memorandum of understanding is supposed to be presented to the board of park commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday next week (Feb. 22).

The park is wedged between College Avenue and Walnut Street just south of the SR-46 bypass.

The inventory of wildlife at the park observed by The B Square in the last week at the park includes: mallards; redhead ducks; muskrats; and a possibly a Cooper’s hawk. (The bird has also been identified on social media as a red-tailed hawk.)

The park includes a series of stepped lagoons that are a part of the northside stormwater management infrastructure. Stormwater from more than 170 acres of the city drains into the Miller-Showers facility, and eventually farther downstream.

The detention ponds in the park slow the flow so that sediment can settle out of the water, improving water quality downstream. CBU is responsible for the city’s stormwater management. That’s why CBU is partly responsible for the cost of maintaining the infrastructure of Miller-Showers Park.

Beyond splitting the cost of the retention wall maintenance, under the arrangement, the parks department will be responsible for all other aspects of Miller Showers Park maintenance and operation, according to the staff memo in the USB’s meeting information packet.

Responding to an emailed question from The B Square, CBU director Vic Kelson indicated that CBU will also be paying for some dredging work at Miller-Showers to be done later this year. The need for the dredging work is based on the results of a bathymetric study that was done in November last year.

Kelson wrote, “We’ll actually have another MOU with parks, once we get a contract in place for the dredging for plant/vegetation replacement.”

A company called Heartland Dredging pinged the depths of the waters in mid-November  last year to chart out an underwater map of the sedimentation in the detention ponds.

It was James Hall, assistant director for environmental programs with CBU, who presented the item to the USB on Monday night.

About the result of the bathymetric study, Hall said the first two pools are designed to be six feet deep. But the study found that the average depth for the first pool is now less than a foot. That means the pool is doing what it was designed to do, Hall said, which is to allow sediment to settle out. But the accumulation of sediment means, “We need to clean it out,” Hall said.

Jeff Ehman, who’s USB president, asked at Monday’s meeting for the logic behind the idea that CBU and the parks department should split the cost of maintaining the retention walls.

Hall responded by saying a lot of the discussion about the arrangement related to aesthetics. The idea is that anything that is a part of the park aesthetics would be paid for by the parks department. Anything that is essential to the function of the detention basins, to help mitigate stormwater, would get support from CBU, Hall said.

Portions of the detention walls, on the north end, for example, are purely aesthetic, Hall said.

Bathymetric study conducted by Heartland Dredging on Nov. 16, 2021 at Miller-Showers Park stormwater detention pond.

Photos: Miller-Showers Park Valentine’s Day 2022

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