September 4, 2009 — It's a steamy June morning – way too hot and humid for so early in the summer. A small group assembles at the Dell, across from the Central Grounds Parking Garage. They walk and talk all the way along the retention pond and back to where Meadow Creek trickles.
Listen to the UVA Today Radio Show report on this story:
Pointing out how the University of Virginia manages potentially destructive stormwater at the Dell is Mary Hughes, the University's landscape architect. Listening to her explanations are Richard Ludwig, host of the public TV show "GardenSMART," and the producer and cameraman, Jim McCutcheon and Carl Pennington.
Now, three months later, it's time for U.Va.'s closeup.
WVPT, the public TV station based in Harrisonburg, will air the "GardenSMART" episode about U.Va. on Sept. 13 at 6 p.m., sandwiched between two other Charlottesville-themed episodes, focusing on Monticello and two spectacular private gardens. The first show will begin at 5:30 p.m.
"GardenSMART" airs on 576 public TV stations from California to Florida to Maine.
Ludwig, a longtime horticulture professor, said that it was natural for his show to come to U.Va.
"One of the goals of 'GardenSMART' is to look at things from not only an aesthetic standpoint, but an environmental standpoint as well," Ludwig said. "We understand that the University of Virginia is a leader in the use of stormwater and the design of ways to capture, hold and use water."
He said that although the Grounds and someone's backyard are wildly different in scale, viewers will find lessons they can apply.
"We tell a story in a way that someone with a third of an acre can take a couple of tidbits and use them in their own yard," he said.
The program opens on the Lawn as Ludwig speaks with Cheryl Gomez, director of energy and utilities, who provides an introduction to the University.
Then it's over to the Dell, where Hughes tells Ludwig that everyone at U.Va. is a steward of Thomas Jefferson's legacy in preserving not only historical buildings, but also the natural environment. Since the 1990s, she said, the University has undertaken a number of projects in which water plays an important part.
An example is the Dell, where water from Meadow Creek is channeled into a pond by way of a waterfall and bay that aerate the water and filter sediment. Floodwater is retained in the pond, then released slowly into storm sewers.
The program also visits the water management system at the John Paul Jones Arena, which starts in the parking lot and ends up at a detention basin in front of the arena. Finally, Hughes takes Ludwig to an outdoor classroom at Campbell Hall, home of the School of Architecture. There, rainwater captured on the roof is channeled down a stone wall, filtered through a rocky area and into a rain garden before flowing into the sewer system.
Hughes said the "GardenSMART" visit is a great opportunity to showcase U.Va.'s sustainability practices for a national audience.
"People know that Jefferson was highly innovative in 1826, but they may be less familiar with the contemporary University," she said. "This is the side of the University that viewers will see, and I'm very excited about that opportunity."