By Alex DeMetrick

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s a lot to ask of wildflowers and other gardens, but investors think they will help improve Baltimore’s environment.

The impact isn’t just more green spaces, but eventually cleaner water running into the harbor.

It might not look it, but a lot in the Harlem Park neighborhood of Baltimore is being set aside for wildflowers, as part of an infrastructure project.

The goal is to let nature treat the rainwater that currently falls and collects on hard surfaces, some place softer to land.

“The traditional way of storm water management is to pipe it, and then send it somewhere else,” said Baltimore DPW director Rudy Chow. “Like, in this case, our harbor.”

“When you put in green spaces in the city, and channel storm water – which is polluted – through the green spaces, the water infiltrates, as opposed to running straight off into the harbor,” said Will Baker, with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

And the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has found a way to turn this into pay dirt, through something called environmental impact bonds.

“In general, what we call this field of impact investing, with investors who are interested in both a financial, as well as an environmental and social return,” said Carolyn Dupont,  with Qualified Ventures.

This one project calls for 90 of these green spaces scattered throughout the city.

“Impact bond funding will be $6 million,” Baker said. “And it will be matched with $4 million from revolving loan fund moneys, for $10 million total project.”

And the more it helps reduce the city’s run-off, the more the city will pay investors back on the bonds.

Once all 90 green spaces are established, it will still take a few years to determine just how effective they are.

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