VALPARAISO | The second phase of the Chautauqua Park stormwater relief project has spawned a petition battle to save the trees next to the old Valparaiso Technical Institute property.
Part of the plans for the second phase, to be done next summer, call for construction of a detention pond on open space next to the Valpo Tech site on Lincolnway and Center Street. About 150 people have signed an online petition asking the city to save the trees.
The petition drive was organized by Kathy Sipple following a meeting Sept. 22. The goal is to gather 200 signatures and present them to Mayor Jon Costas.
The drive will end at a 219 Green Connects meeting at 6:30 p.m. today at the building, and Sipple plans to present them to the mayor Thursday. The site has 31 trees the signers say should be preserved.
Walt Breitinger, one of the owners of the building and a portion of the proposed detention basin site, said some of the trees are more than 100 years old.
"I am personally in favor of detention ponds and separating storm and sanitary sewers, so the detention pond is a good idea," Breitinger said. "However, I don't think that's an ideal location or design. The whole plan is focused on rushing the water through pipes to Salt Creek."
He said the city should use more rain gardens and bioswales to channel the stormwater so the water could be filtered into the aquifer, and a majority of the trees could be saved.
City stormwater engineer Adam McAlpine said the basin's configuration has been changed a couple of times to avoid an underground sewer and to try to save as many trees as possible. At most, McAlpine said 14 trees might have to be removed.
The city has initiated condemnation proceedings to obtain about 0.4 acres from Breitinger's group and another 1.35 acres from the other owners for the detention pond. Bids will be sought early next year for the whole project.