New Century Students Build Rain Garden
By Kristin Hopper
Two semesters’ worth of work and planning finally came to fruition in April 2012, when ground was broken on the new Piedmont/Tidewater Rain Garden at Mason. Located in the courtyard between the Piedmont and Tidewater residence halls, the rain garden was created as a joint project among the Sustainability Living and Learning Community (LLC), the Office of Sustainability, New Century College, the Office of Facilities Management, and the Office of Housing and Residence Life.
Sustainability LLC residents Lianne Roe, Arin Stackhouse, Aly Rayner, and I created and worked on the project in Professor Andrew Wingfield’s Leadership for Sustainability class. At the beginning of the school year, we were encouraged to come up with a sustainable project proposal to submit to the Patriot Green Fund.
Our group decided to create a rain garden in front of Piedmont Hall when we noticed that its courtyard tended to flood during heavy rain. We wondered whether there was a way to reduce flooding in the courtyard and the resulting rainwater runoff. The problem with rainwater runoff is that as it flows to the storm sewers, and it collects pollutants from the ground and gains speed. When this water reaches streams and creeks, it can pollute the local watershed and erode stream banks. We designed the rain garden so that rain slows when filtered through it, ultimately preventing runoff.
The rain garden comprises local native plants so it will not only filter rainwater, but will also be a natural habitat for butterflies, birds, and other local wildlife. Plants include Joe Pye weed, wild mint, wild blueberry, and many others. The goal in choosing plants was to pick ones that would require less care and be more tolerant to varying conditions. The plants needed to be able to thrive in a variety of conditions, including varying degrees of shade, sun, and different types of soil.
We hope, the rain garden will not only reduce flooding and improve rainwater quality, but will also be used to educate others on sustainable rainwater quality practices. We encourage other students to pursue their ideas for sustainable projects. Lots of great resources are available on campus to help students develop such projects, including the Office of Sustainability, which helped guide us through the process, and the Patriot Green Fund, which provided generous funding.
Anyone can create their own rain garden at home and have a positive impact on the local environment and landscape.
Kristin Hopper is a junior at Mason majoring in geography and geoinformation science with a minor in New Century College’s Sustainability Studies.
This article was originally published in the New Century College newsletter Keeping the Connection.
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