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May 13th, 2009

ROADS

A road’s primary objective is for circulation, though it has the potential to serve more functions than that.

Eagle Eye View Helps Shape the Road Siting

Eagle Eye View Helps Shape the Road Siting


Roads can harvest rainwater by slowing down & spreading out surface water flows, can shed water in specifically designed directions; can function as a fire break and it can be a place where pedestrians intersect- a community building device. Roads are places where the dynamism of the edge effect can be enhanced.


Roads that meander in the way a river meanders are pleasing and inviting; they slow us down, thus creating an opportunity to ‘arrive’ at a given destination. In a hurried & harried world such a serpentine structure can be the inspiration that we need to remind ourselves of this moment in time.

Raodside Stabilization with Native Wild Flowers & Grasses Provides Inspirational Moments when We Slow Down

Roadside Stabilization with Native Wild Flowers & Grasses Provides Inspirational Moments when We Slow Down

 

It seems so easy to put in a road: decide where you want it to build, mark out  the shortest route from existing access roads to the building site then hire equipment and an operator, come back later and voila!!


All too often this is how it is done and the result is invariably a structure (road) that becomes a maintenance nightmare and thus an on-going expense.  Frequently it is a massive scar on the landscape that has edges too steep for plants to gain a foothold. It is, all too often,  a point of erosion, particularly in places that experience heavy rainfall.


2"- 3" Leach Rocks Slows Rainwater & Shed it into Growing Areas, Stabilizing Road

2"- 3" Leach Rocks Slows Rainwater & Shed it into Growing Areas, Stabilizing Road

With thoughtful siting of structures as well as an awareness of the geophysical properties, climate, and other influences that shape the landscape, it is possible to create a road that “rests easy on the land.” 

 

In this example the process for determining placement for the road began with several months of walking on this 40 acre site.

 

An ephemeral stream bisects the land diagonally. During the monsoonal pattern the drainage carries significant volumes of water.

 

 

Monsoonal Rains Fill Ephemeral Stream Beds in Minutes. One & Two Inch Rains in an Hour are Common

Monsoonal Rains Fill Ephemeral Stream Beds in Minutes. One & Two Inch Rains in an Hour are Common

Both places were marked with bright colored, 10 foot square, tarps that were anchored along the edges with stones.

Potential building sites were also marked with thrift-store-purchased, light colored sheets. Property boundary corners were similarly marked. All markers needed to be visible in the images taken from the air.

With the aid of a compass a North/ South white marker (agricultural row cover) 25 Feet long by 5 Feet wide was placed centrally on the site.

 

 

Thus prepared, on a late December, cool early morning (little air turbulence and Winter Solstice solar angles visible) an hour long flight in a high wing plane gave us a clear view of patterns in the landscape: the landforms, vegetation and relationships within this natural system that influence the site. An understanding of this place deepened over time as the photographs taken from the air were carefully studied. Impacts from neighbor’s land use became clear and are now included in long range planning on the site.

The crossing point in the stream bed was decided after the fly over and more walking-observations. The Permaculture adage: “Long and thoughtful observation in lieu of mindless labor” becomes  critical when utilizing big machinery as the potential for irreperable damage to the landscapeis significant.

 

In order to minimize long term impact on the land the road would serve as access for three properties as well as the location for underground utilities. Fire is an inherent part of this landscape and are most often a Spring phenomenon. The prevailing winds are also a Spring phenomenon and the combination of the two can present real danger. The road will also function as a secondary fire break by loosely following the stream bed (the stream bed would be the primary fire break). As development progressed the road surface would be elevated sufficiently or canted to slow surface water runoff, giving it a chance to soak in to the heavy soils.

Berm & Swale Created at the Keyline Point of the Slope/ Road Interface Infiltrates Rainwater

Berm & Swale Created at the Keyline Point of the Slope/ Road Interface Infiltrates Rainwater

 

By working with the natural contours of the land this rural road has needed very little work -over three heavy rain seasons- to stabilize: 

the addition of 10 yards of leach rock (2-3 inch stones) at the base of a  short slope, and a one and a half hours of patching- one person, a shovel and a bucket.

 

 

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