From Thousands In Fines To A Better Public Space: How GZA Helped Turn A Problem Into An Opportunity

Construction monitoring (CM) is about keeping a job on track and on budget, and the smallest sites can yield the biggest challenges, as assistant project manager Adrienne Dunk tells us. Her first CM job was on a historic canal in New Jersey, key to Colonial America-era shipping and transport, which was undergoing restoration work. After some earthmoving, it was discovered that some soil had fallen by accident in a local wetland, an issue that could involve up to $100,000 in fines for the town.

The GZA team, which included Adrienne and ecologist Blaine Rothauser, offered a better alternative. Working with town authorities and the state’s Department of Environmental Protection to restore the area instead, they crafted a five-point plan of soil erosion and sediment control; planting design; kiosk design; construction monitoring; and five years of adaptive management. 

Communication Is Key

Adrienne’s first priority was communication. “I cannot stress the open communication between the teams enough,” Adrienne tells us. Blaine found that keeping people informed also paid off. “I hit it off with the DEP violation team, and I would proactively call and tell them what’s going on,” he tells us.

Communication was particularly important for one stakeholder, the local public works department, as they were juggling not just this task, but everything else the town needed throughout a busy summer. “They had other priorities, too,” Adrienne explains. If there was an emergency, they had to drop everything and shift crew and equipment to the site until it was finished. This was, however, a two-way street: some of the final plantings were done by DPW staff grateful to be pulled off a sewer line break.

Site conditions required thinking ahead. Due to the location’s status as a public park, vegetation had to be carefully monitored, in other words, no parking on the grass.  Thus, managing the timing and arrival of equipment was paramount. A rainy summer meant more risk of heavy equipment getting mired in the dirt where it was safe to park, which in turn required some regrading to ensure site safety. 

Adrienne found the best way to approach these minor setbacks was to focus on the major successes. “It was about the framing and the communication, and then the follow-up, recognizing their efforts and continually framing it as an opportunity for the team to ultimately succeed.”

Results That Speak For Themselves

The result of all the careful planning was an even better park. A year after completion, 95% of the plantings were thriving, with minimal deer damage. Signage was carefully designed to explain the ecosystem that the hard work of everyone involved was protecting, while matching the other signs exploring the history of the site. With some careful management and planning, a potential fine was turned into an effective, and useful, restoration.