Harrow rain garden to help Great Lakes

Filed under: Headline,In Our Community |

Harrow-Rain-Garden-3by Sylene Argent

When it rains, it pours. And there was a torrent of help in creating a rain garden at the Harrow Arena last Wednesday.

Students from Harrow Public School and Harrow Secondary School rolled up their sleeves to help create what is believed to be the region’s first rain garden. The garden is a partnership program involving the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA), Essex, and the Essex County Field Naturalists’ Club. It was funded through the Ministry of Environment’s Great Lakes Guardian Community Fund.

ERCA’s Water Quality Specialist Chitra Gowda explained rain gardens are an excellent source to keep lakes clean through managing storm water. Rain gardens allow rainwater to slowly filter through the ground. They hold water for brief periods of time during and after a rainfall.

“What we do today is going to really help the environment and help protect our Great Lake,” Gowda said, adding the rain garden was designed in a bowl-like shape.

ERCA’s Community Outreach Coordinator Caroline Biribauer, taught the students how to properly plant the native vegetation in the garden. She also helped design the project. The plants were designated areas in the garden depending on whether or not they could take salt, which might come off the road.

After learning about the rain garden’s importance, the students helped plant around 900 different species of plant life.

Harrow-Rain-Garden-1All the plants and flowers added to the garden help take up extra storm water and also help eat away pollution that otherwise would have ended up in Lake Erie, Gowda said. The plants selected for the rain garden were native species and are able to take in a lot of water. They will also provide habitat for species and an opportunity for pollination. In total, three rain garden areas were created in the Harrow Arena, which cover around 1000 square feet.

Jesse Gardner Costa, President of the Essex County Field Naturalists’ Club, said the Club appreciates nature, teaches youth about the environment, and works to protect it. The Club members, he said, were very enthusiastic about the rain garden as the members are always excited for affordable solutions to aid the environment.

Establishing rain gardens, Gardner Costa added, could be done all around the county and in the front and backyards of area residences. The group will put together how-to videos as helpful guides for those interested in creating rain gardens.

On behalf of the Town of Essex, Mayor Ron McDermott thanked ERCA and the partners involved in establishing the rain gardens. “This is really something,” he said.

“We need everybody’s eyes in the community to help protect this rain garden,” Essex Councillor Sherry Bondy added. “We don’t want this rain garden to get [harmed] in any way…it will pay off for us in the long run.”

Anyone wishing more information is urged to contact Gowda or Biribauer at ERCA. A fact sheet is available at www.erca.org. Gowda hopes the Harrow rain garden project will be the start of many other similar projects. Coming up with the initial design for a rain garden typically takes half an hour, she said.