Rain garden flourishes from rooftop run off
September 17, 2009
The courtyard between May and Prucha halls received a face lift last spring with the addition of a rain garden directly in front of the campus exercise room.
The rain garden was designed to help stop rain water or melting snow from running into storm drains or into the waterways that run around campus.
“Rain gardens are an infiltration technique – water is captured in a garden that features native plantings, and the water has a chance to slowly filter into the ground rather than run off into the storm sewer,” according to the Wisconsin DNR web site.
UW-River Falls plays a big part in water quality in the region due to the Kinnickinnic River. The south fork of the river runs directly through campus, and the “Kinni” plays a big part in water quality in the region due to its ending location, the large St. Croix River.
“Our goal is to have no impact from campus on water quality in the south fork, environmental science professor Laine Vignona said.
Vignona and Terry Ferriss, plant science department chair, teamed up with facilities management, Residence Life and a group of students working on the project as a study group.
“It was really a joint effort,” Ferriss said, “faculty members provided leadership combined with facilities management and residence life.”
Due to its location, the garden has some effects on students living in the surrounding buildings.
May Hall Manager, Jenny Phillips, has noticed various student reactions to the garden.
“I feel that the rain garden does add a little something to May Hall,” she said.
“Aesthetically, it is very nice to look at and obviously has a purpose.”
The garden also has a few adverse affects on students.
“The only complaints that I have heard are that when it rains, the area floods and the sidewalk floods as well,” Phillips said.
Due to its relatively simple design, the constructing of the garden came rather easily to those involved.
“Rain gardens aren’t rocket science. A few measurements, but its not that difficult,” Ferriss said.
Maintenance of the garden is handled by the UWRF grounds crew. Maintenance includes removing weeds, mulching, and cleaning dead plant debris, according to Ferriss.
Plants used in the construction were either purchased by the University or donated.
According to a University press release, “Bailey Nurseries of Newport donated more than 50 percent of the plants for the project.” Ferriss also stated that some plants were purchased at wholesale or discounted prices.
Plant species in the garden also varies with most plants being native to the upper Midwest. Some of the non-regional plants in the garden were placed to help the garden thrive.
“Some plants have the best opportunity to succeed in an altered landscape,” Ferriss said. Although there are no immediate plans for future construction of campus rain gardens, there are plans for a sign to be placed near the garden for educational purposes.
Both Ferris and Vignona said they would like students to take the concepts of the rain garden off campus to promote sustainability through better water runoff practices.