A Message from your Public Works Director: Swales as an Environmental Benefit

Swales around the City are strips of land usually located in front of a house between the sidewalk and the street. Swales play an important role in the protection of our environment and the beauty of our City.

First, they are an area for natural drainage for stormwater that falls on streets, sidewalks, and driveway approaches. Swales allow the stormwater to drain and percolate back to the ground for our drinking water. Second, they protect our environment by filtering the stormwater from the street, picks up the oils, pesticides and lawn fertilizers that wash away from the property. The swales along with naturally filter out and reduce these pollutants, decreasing their loading on groundwater resources. If not treated by the swales, these pollutants would eventually end up in our canals, lakes, ocean and our drinking water.

Swales should be kept grassy, not just for beauty, but to catch these contaminants. Swales paved with asphalt or built up with dirt or gravel can cause health, environmental, and aesthetic hazards. It is against the Public Works Manual to have anything on the swale other than grass. Stormwater can collect and stagnate or may run off the paved surface, picking up leaves, litter, animal waste, oil, etc., that will runoff to other areas to include flooding your neighbors.

Property owners are required to maintain the swales adjacent to their property in good condition {City Code: Property Maintenance: Chapter 16, article #3, Section # 16-57 (e, h)} helping us to protect our canals and waterways. To ensure the swale areas stay in good condition, simply follow a few basic guidelines:

• Keep your Swale free of leaves, limbs and any other debris. Dispose of debris and oil properly, instead of placing them in your swale. Call Miami Dade County Solid Waste before your bulk trash is brought out to the swale for pickup. This will eliminate the grass from dying and keep the swale open if a storm approaches.

• Avoid parking vehicles on the swale. This will allow the grass to grow healthy and keep the soil loose so water can filter and soak into the ground more easily. On a side note, if you have to park on the swale please do not park on top of the sidewalks.

• Do not place asphalt, gravel, dirt or any material other than grass in sawles, to allow the water drain into the ground. Landscaping your swale area can be pleasing to the eye, but it also disrupts the natural drainage qualities of the swale. Consider landscaping behind your property line; you will still add beauty to your home while keeping the swale in its natural state. The City continues to plant trees in the swale area, not just to beautify and provide oxygen, but trees reduce water runoff by breaking rainfall thus allowing the water to flow down the trunk and into the earth below the tree. When mulched, trees act like a sponge that filters this water naturally and uses it to recharge groundwater supplies.

All landscaping within the swale areas shall be in accordance with established procedures approved by the city to include no plants or trees that are prickly to the touch and planting trees/bushes that obstruct visibility on intersections and driveways.


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8 Comments on "A Message from your Public Works Director: Swales as an Environmental Benefit"

  1. What happens when you try to follow these rules by keeping the swale grassy and
    Trying to maintain it yet neighbors park their cars and litter on the swale adjacent to my house.
    It doesn't seem fair that the county can fine me if the swale is not properly maintained yet allow
    Others to park there. It also defects their purpose if they are allowed to be used as parking.
    Why not pass a law that gives homeowners the right to only allow their guest if they choose to do so to park on the swale adjacent to their homes like it is in Miami beach.
    My swale has been used as overnight parking, landscapers park their trucks there when mowing neighbors lawns. I had a van run over my tree and people throwing their trash before getting in their cars. I live in a corner lot and its frustrating not bring able to do anything about it.

  2. We have the same problem where we live. But what bothers me the most is that our neighbors don't have the decency to ask before they park their trucks on our swale, even though their driveway and swale have plenty of room. I guess 'common courtesy' is not very common.

  3. What happens when the neighbors across the street park in our swale every night, and the grass is turning brown because of the exhaust from her car. She has room to park in the yard where she is visiting, or pull in under the big tree between their house and the one next door to it. I do not appreciate her burning my grass when I try so hard to maintain it in a nice, green condition. Is it possible to plant another live oak on the swale to prevent her parking there on purpose? There is a vacant house next door where she could park; it is only a short walk.

  4. Julia Malakoff | January 3, 2017 at 5:41 pm | Reply

    I live on a corner lot too. I used to have a nice green lawn in the front and around the sides of my lawn.The library across the street serves as a voting station. The recent elections resulted in many people parking on my front and side swales that there is nothing but hard dirt in the front and scraggly thin grass around the side. I used to keep people off the grass with large coral rocks. Then a new neighbor complained and I had to remove the rocks. Since then I have given up. My Gardner continues to mow and edge the swales and I continue to pay him. I even put down new sod. Now I’ve decided that if Miami-Dade wants the area to look ratty, so be it. I’ll spend my dwindling funds on other maintance items.

  5. I have a grass swale I placed white painted rocks along the edge to stop people parking. A construction firm building a house next door removes the rocks daily to park. They have thrown grit in places on top that I had grass seed in and had watered. The council have told them they can park while the ground is hard as it is summer and recently I have been told I can place a no parking sign on my land that borders the swale. Seems there is no proper rules in place.

  6. Dennis Miller | August 30, 2017 at 2:12 pm | Reply

    I put large coral rocks on the edge of my swale about 3 years ago, with permission from my HOA. Now, just yesterday, I was told by Miami-Dade that I’m not allowed to protect my property from rude people who destroy my lawn when they park or drive all over it while picking up their children at the middle school around the corner. The eventuality is, they will destroy my yard and I will get a letter from the HOA demaning I resod the swale or they will put a lein on my house. This is simply not fair.

    • Maryann Crawford | September 6, 2017 at 4:30 pm | Reply

      I live across the street from a middle school and the parents are using the swale area in front of my house as a pick-up point. The grass is now mostly dirt. Last year I placed large rocks in the swale as a way to alleviate the problem and was informed by a Miami-Dade compliance officer that if someone hurt themselves on the rocks, I could be sued and found liable. Its a no win situation.

  7. I have the same problem with inconsiderate neighbors parking(and throwing there trash) in my swale area. I’ve had the county come out twice to re gravel the area bc of puddles of water when it rains. One if my neighbors planted trees in his so his area looks nice. So I want to do the same but keep seeing where people care getting cited for doing so. So what is the deal ????

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