In-house solution halts soil erosion

Sidewalk with Watson gutter design

Pavement strips added to sidewalks channel the water runoff to prevent soil erosion. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Some homegrown ingenuity helped solve a long-standing problem for campus services crews and provide better conditions for pedestrians. As water drained after rain or from melting ice and snow, it would impact stretches along sidewalks -- pooling mud in low-lying areas and washing out soil alongside the pavement.

Les Lawson, campus services manager in facilities planning and management, said that created pedestrian hazards, such as tripping on washed-out ruts and slipping in the mud. So, three years ago, Lawson huddled with landscape architect Chris Strawhacker and now-retired campus services supervisor Tim Watson. And, voilà, a solution -- what Lawson half-jokingly calls the "Watson gutter" -- was born.

"Tim Watson is a go-to guy who can figure just about anything out," Lawson said.

The first test was the sidewalk north of the Gerdin Business Building. A foot-wide strip of cement was installed, bordering the existing sidewalk. The outer edge of the new strip was slightly raised, channeling water back toward the sidewalk. Instead of running off the pavement, the water was collected and channeled by the sidewalk -- like a gutter.

Over the last three summers, campus crews have implemented the erosion mitigation measure in eight areas along ISU's 34 miles of sidewalks. Depending on the incline of the sidewalk, some need pavement strips on both sides and some need just one to get the job done. Next on the list is a stretch of sidewalk south of the Farm House Museum.

"It has been 100 percent successful," Lawson said. "We haven't had a failure yet."