What’s Up With the Giant Puddle at the New Carter Woodson Park in Shaw?


“Dear PoPville,

Just wanted to pass along a pretty disappointing photo. The Carter G. Woodson Park was recently completed in Shaw at a cost of over $1 million. It is a beautiful space and a great addition to the neighborhood. However, after every storm, a sizable portion of the park floods due to poor drainage. Many of the new plants are already showing damage. It is a shame that the landscapers didn’t anticipate this problem. Hopefully, it can be fixed soon and the park can live on for many years as it was intended.”

Ed. Note: When I first saw one of these giant puddles in Petworth years ago, I was confused too but was told it was perfectly normal that it was just a rain garden intended to collect water like this. Isn’t this same thing?

21 Comment

    • justinbc

      What’s up with this disappointment being exactly what it was supposed to be!?

      • Prince Of Petworth

        Folks are saying the plants are dying – trying to get a photo. Could be dying for other reasons too – gotta brush off my old botany skills.

        • Some plants have died, but given my gardening history, I find it much more remarkable when the plants actually survive. Most are doing just fine and have been in the ground for at least a month now.

          • Agreed. Not sure why everyone thinks they are dying. I go past this park every day and the plants look surprisingly good.

          • It’s not like they get the kind of attention they’d receive from an individual homeowner and even then, plants die no matter what you do. There’s also a shock to the roots that goes along with being transplanted which contributes to mortality in situations like this, along with general adaptation to the environment—the greenhouse probably doesn’t have a fume filled thoroughfare adjacent to it.

            It’s looked good when I’ve walked by and despite the standing water did not appear to be a malarial jungle filled with mosquitoes/and even if did have skeeters, at least they would keep people out of the plants.

      • Seriously. I’ll tell you what’s disappointing – the reflex of some people to automatically assume that a city project was botched (and to scold the workers who installed it, and to demand corrective action) instead of considering the possibility that they don’t know what they’re looking at.

        • +1000. This park is a great addition to our city.

        • Yep, you could tell it was a rain garden when they were building it. MUCH BETTER than a triangle of asphalt. I enjoyed watching it progress every day.

  • Definitely a rain garden.

  • Also a rain garden to collect mosquitoes?

    • Rain gardens provide shelter to other bugs, such as ladybugs and spiders, which feast on mosquitos. Also, because they dry out relatively quickly, they aren’t particularly friendly to mosquitos unless the rains are consistent and heavy.

    • maxwell smart

      In addition, rain gardens allow the soil to absorb the water after it rains, rather then the water just running off into storm sewers which causes erosion and pollution and reduces the quality of groundwater and surrounding soils.

  • It’s a rain garden. It was included in the original plans.

  • This looks like a mosquito garden to me :/

  • I love rain gardens! I had the city install one in my back yard!

  • This little space is so welcoming, I love seeing it when I drive by.
    I am doing research on rain gardens now…

    • Generally, rain gardens shouldn’t have standing water for very long (more than a day would be bad).

      You don’t want standing water because it can create hypoxic (low oxygen) conditions in the root zone (which is bad for plants on microfauna that live in the soil), plus standing water can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

      If the standing water is persisting there for more than a day, the soil is likely not permeable enough (lots of DC has very clay-ey soils, which don’t drain well) or the plants are not yet mature enough to take up the water through evapotranspiration. If it’s the latter, it will get better as the plants mature (assuming they last that long).

      • DDOE requires them to be designed with 48 hr max drawdown times. If underdrains are not installed, you need to provide tests results showing infiltration rates proving it will drawdown. Of course, what looks good on paper doesn’t always work IRL.

  • I’d be petrified of the mosquitoes, we stay on top of any standing waters in our yard and they still come in droves!

  • Taking a quick look at the types of plants in that area it’s obvious it’s a rain garden.

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