Orlando Rest Area Embraces Green Infrastructure with 57 Parking Lot Trees

Turkey Lake Plaza installs over 1,800 Silva Cells to provide soil-volume and stormwater-treatment benefits to rest stop parking lot


In an effort to increase public safety, decrease maintenance costs, and provide more aesthetically pleasing and functional break locations, the state of Florida has begun work on an ambitious improvement plan to revitalize each stop along the Ronald Reagan Turnpike (part of the Florida Turnpike Enterprise (FTE) network and one of the most heavily trafficked highways in the nation). The rest stop at Turkey Lake in Orlando is not only a busy roadside respite but also home to the FTE district and maintenance offices, often a central host location for state and municipal conferences. Project planners thus wanted to make the site a beacon of design, including incorporating green infrastructure into the parking lot rebuild — 57 new trees were planted in 1,800 Silva Cells, which provide proper soil volume for both healthy canopy growth and resistance to windthrow events as well as helping treat stormwater runoff on-location.

Installation Summary

Number of Silva Cells: 1,818 (2x)

Amount of Soil Volume Per Tree: 750 ft3 (Over 1,000 ft3 including planters)

Number of Trees: 57

Type of Project: Parking Lot, Municipal, Stormwater

Project Designer: JCR Consulting

Project Contractor: DAB Constructors

Installation Date of Silva Cells: Summer 2022

The Project

Rest areas along U.S. highways, particularly in rural areas without easy access to roadside facilities, are an important fixture of American transportation infrastructure. This is particularly true in a state like Florida, where big cities are surrounded by large areas of less-populated land mass, making upkeep, maintenance, functionality, and modernization all critical elements for these highly trafficked rest stops.

In the late 2010s, Florida began making plans for the overhaul of each rest area along the Ronald Reagan Turnpike, among the busiest roadways in the country. In addition to making the stops more accessible, safe, and cost-effective, project planners — including the design team at JCR Consulting — sought to improve both the aesthetics and functionality of these facilities. One of the top priorities was Turkey Lake Plaza in Orlando, a bustling stop for motorists and, with the FTE district and maintenance offices as well a Florida State Patrol location, a frequent gathering place for state officials.

Design planners identified the Turkey Lake project as an opportunity, showcasing what could be done to modernize these facilities and embrace sustainability elements, including green infrastructure. Plans for the new shaded parking lot and building entrances featured dozens of new trees requiring adequate soil volume for robust growth; likewise, department planners wanted to use these plantings as an opportunity to help treat stormwater, cleaning it before it drains into the receiving water body while also providing irrigation for the trees.

To assist in all these project goals, the design team turned to the DeepRoot Silva Cells.

DeepRoot Silva Cell Success

A diverse array of technical expertise was required to successfully build the project: architectural, civil, geotechnical, structural, electrical, mechanical, environmental, water and wastewater, utilities, and traffic control/signage. Environmental engineers were utilized to complete stormwater-pollution prevention plans for each of the Florida rest areas, applying erosion and sediment-control management practices throughout construction to prevent sediments from leaving the construction sites.

The location of the project did present a number of logistical, site-specific challenges. Due to the low-lying nature of the site, the water table was particularly high. Also, the hurricane-force winds experienced in the region often present an obstacle to proper green infrastructure planning, as trees and palms are susceptible to windthrow. Hurricane-force winds can be extremely damaging to communities and urban forests. Large plants can become hazardous and pose risks to personal safety and property during these large-scale wind events; indeed, an area’s entire green infrastructure can be wiped out with one catastrophic storm.

Because DeepRoot has vast experience in the Florida climate, however, these obstacles were overcome by utilizing the Silva Cell system. Windthrow’s effect on trees in parking lots can be reduced by increasing available soil volume — and thus, providing an environment for a strong root system, according to research associated with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF IFAS) (see publication ENH 1056, updated in 2017 by Edward Gilman and Traci Partin). More than 1,800 (2x) Silva Cells were installed in the Turkey Lake Plaza. Each of the 57 newly planted trees — mostly Live Oak (Quercus Virginiana) — are receiving access to 750 cubic feet of quality, uncompacted soil volume.

The Silva Cell system is also being utilized for stormwater management. The 3.6-acre parking lot consists of pervious pavement through which the rain can seep below to the Silva Cells and the soil within. This cleans the runoff of pollutants before entering the sewer system. Using green infrastructure in this way will also lessen the stormwater-treatment burden on the adjacent Highway 91, set to be widened in the near future. Likewise, the water entering the soil through the pervious walkway irrigates the trees and provides them with the hydration necessary for robust canopy growth — which, in turn, provides residents with shady respite from the urban heat island effect.

We at DeepRoot are dedicated to improving mobility now and into the future, providing innovative solutions to navigate our clients’ toughest challenges and help them advance their infrastructure goals and messaging.

Additional Resources

For other Silva Cell projects in Florida, check out our case studies here, here, and here


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