For towns on the Eastern Shore, stormwater problems and rising sea levels are not just a distant threat but a current reality requiring decisive action. In the Town of Snow Hill, located on the Pocomoke River in Worcester County, local leaders have taken many steps to implement innovative measures that will ensure the town has a sustainable future. Snow Hill has especially made a difference in stormwater management.
“We had water issues,” said Karen Houtman, Snow Hill’s town planner. Standing water and high levels of pollutants in the water were a problem because “the elevations here in town are so low and so close to the base-flood elevation.”
Among the projects undertaken to address the issue, the town created a bioretention area at Gateway Park that reduced 10 percent of the nutrients from a parking lot that were flowing to the river.
Swales, sunken landscaping features, also helped beautify an area near the river while better managing water runoff and reducing the amount of lingering puddles for events in the park’s pavilions.
The town created the Eastern Shore’s first submerged gravel wetland as well, which significantly improved water quality by reducing phosophorous by 60 percent and nitrogen by 80 percent, among other pollutants.
“It’s made a definite improvement,” Houtman says. “Made it much more beautified and enhanced the site for visitors … and for our citizens.”
In addition to strengthening stormwater management strategies, Snow Hill has installed energy-efficient lights, replaced 80 percent of water meters with smart meters and installed new storm windows at the town’s firehouse. Through the state’s Tree-mendous Maryland program, the town also planted 145 trees. The Town of Snow Hill continues to look for ways to make changes that will help the town protect its historic charm and prosper for years to come.