Floating Wetlands

July 31, 2014
Julie Napolitano, intern with The Office of Environmental Sustainability
Howard County Initiatives

This blog was written by Julie Napolitano, intern with The Office of Environmental Sustainability and student at UMD studying Environmental Science-Natural Resource Management. Thank you Julie!

In the mood to enjoy some of the beautiful weather we had last week, I decided to take my son for a walk around Font Hill wetland park near our home. This is one of my favorite places to walk, although I had not been there in over a year.  It is smaller and less crowded than Centennial Lake and offers more opportunities to see wildlife such as turtles and songbirds.  As we passed through the marshy area towards the main pond, I noticed something different. There were islands of plants floating in the pond. I thought to myself, are these floating wetlands? Turns out they are! So what exactly arefloating wetlands?

These floating wetlands are constructed using native, perennial aquatic plants suspended in floating rafts and they mimic the same basic function as natural wetlands.  Natural wetlands, such as those found throughout the Chesapeake Bay, are known for their ability to improve water quality. This water quality improvement is a result of the wetland plants processing excess nutrients, intercepting other pollutants, trapping sediment and reducing suspended solids in the water.  In the case of floating wetlands, the plants’ roots are always exposed to the water. This continued exposure enables them to constantly improve the things that degrade water quality.

Upon further research, I learned that these floating wetlands have also been installed in another location in Howard County—Sewell’s Orchard. Both Font Hill and Sewell’s Orchard are wetland areas that function as storm water management ponds as well as recreational fishing areas. These features make them ideal locations for water quality improvement. The water in these ponds empties into streams which then join the Patuxent River and eventually reach the Chesapeake Bay. In addition, the water quality in these ponds directly impacts the wildlife that lives there.   The vegetation also provides an aesthetic quality while providing food and cover for fish, insects, frogs, turtles, waterfowl and songbirds.

So, if you have visited either of these locations and found yourself wondering what was floating in the water, now you know! These floating wetlands were installed by Howard County Department of Recreation & Parks from a grant they recently received from the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bay 2010 Trust Fund through the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Press Release for the Installation of Floating Wetlands: http://www.co.ho.md.us/News/News_20100614.htm

Background on Font Hill Wetlands Park:http://www.co.ho.md.us/RAP/RAPDocs/FontHillPark.pdf

Explore Font Hill Park: http://www.howardcountymd.gov/rap/rap_FontHillPark.htm

Explore Sewell’s Orchard Park:http://www.howardcountymd.gov/rap/rap_SewellsOrchardPark.htm