Crossroads Goes Green With New Parking Lot

Crossroads at Big Creek Director Coggin Heeringa has admitted to having Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” running through her mind ever since the Sturgeon Bay preserve and education center decided to pursue its parking lot rehabilitation and expansion project two years ago.

While there will be paving and putting up of a parking lot, it isn’t being done to sacrifice this slice of Sturgeon Bay paradise, but to help it thrive.

Since 2015, Crossroads has been fundraising to meet a $300,000-plus goal to address the deterioration of its current parking lot and expand it due to increased attendance at the historical and environmental preserve.

The center has grown to serving more than 10,000 adults and school children per year, with Heeringa noting the parking lot fills to maximum capacity at least three days per week.

“Education’s what we care about but if we don’t have room for people it becomes a safety issue so safety was the first concern,” Heeringa said.

The project consists of three elements:  a parking lot expansion that will approximately double the number of available spots (60), the addition of dark sky-friendly lighting, and landscaping around the lot, which will also include the eventual addition of a chain of swales.

New parking lot construction at the Crossroads at Big Creek Preserve in Sturgeon Bay, Door County, Wisconsin. Photo by Len Villano.

Stormwater management is the defining element of the parking lot project. Crossroads Land and Facilities Manager Rich Propsom explained the project will incorporate components that provide filtration, treatment and infiltration.

“Basically we have asphalt like most parking areas but we also have some lines of a pervious concrete called RePlenish, it’s made by Spancrete,” he said. “A lot of the other parking lots you see nowadays have infiltration areas for stormwater and we’ll be having that.”

With pervious concrete, rain will percolate to a drain tile underneath the parking lot and into a detention area at the south end of the lot, which will provide initial filtration of particulate matter, such as phosphorous. Eventually wetland plants will be added to remediate additional material and in the event of particularly wet seasons or heavy rainfall, the detention area will fill up and flow out into what will eventually become a chain of swales beginning to the east of the building.

“That will overflow to a series of swales of shallow ponds which again will provide filtration before it eventually discharges a half a mile down here at Big Creek, so we’re providing some initial filtration, some vegetative treatment and this treatment will continue on these little swales,” he explained.

The current “mound” in the center of the parking lot will be turned into a walkway so visitors can walk safely from the parking lot to the building or trails. The parking lot will be lit by programmable LED luminaries that will minimize or eliminate backlighting, up-lighting and glare, which will lead to improved animal and human health, safety and energy usage.

“It directs the light where you need it rather than up into the sky and other places,” Propsom said. “…Even though we’re adding a larger parking lot, we should be able to reduce our energy signature.”

The preserve is still fundraising for an additional $13,000 to install the swales and landscape around the parking lot. Ultimately Heeringa hopes Crossroads at Big Creek can serve as an example for other organizations and businesses pursuing environmentally sound projects.

“We want to showcase that you can be energy efficient, you can take care of water,” she said. “With climate change being pretty much a reality, we’re going to have more and more extreme storms and being able to deal with water and lots of water at once, we think this solution will work for us and what my dream is, is the engineers and contractors and stuff will come and look at ours and say, ‘Hey, this will work. We can do this. It works in Door County. This is something we can do, too.’ We want to be an example. We want to showcase the best management practices at this time.”

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