Yes, the snow is flying, the days are short and sunshine is at a premium, and the temperatures are less than hospitable. But in a few months things will change, and the new Irvington Teaching Rain Garden will begin to stir….
The rain garden is intended not only to beautify the southwest area of the Irvington Community Elementary School campus near the Pennsy Trail but to serve some very practical purposes, too. The garden collects storm water runoff from the school’s roof and the Pennsy Trail. The garden’s water-loving native plants – such as sedges, irises, sneezeweed, monkey flower, and marsh milkweed (a host plant for monarch butterflies) – will thrive this spring, summer, and early autumn as a result.
Once a swale, the rain garden now serves to reduce storm water flow while providing a natural filtering process so that fewer pollutants enter the municipal sewer system. What’s more, the garden is a natural attraction for birds, butterflies, favorable insects, and other creatures. In fact, on Wednesday, September 1, 2010, the day of the garden installation, an eastern box turtle crawled over to “Toad Hall,” a set of limestone slabs where downspout-collected rainwater is sent prior to entering the garden’s plant-filled basins. Named “Irv” when discovered by landscape architect and project coordinator Ken Remenschneider and designated the official Irvington Teaching Rain Garden mascot, the curious turtle must have sensed what’s about to come in the spring, for the rain garden in bloom will be a sight to behold.
The rain garden came to fruition after a considerable amount of planning involving a host of local organizations, including the Irvington Development Organization’s Green Initiative, Remenschneider Associates Inc., Mundell & Associates Inc. (an earth and environmental services consulting company), Elements Engineering (a civil engineering design firm focusing on sustainability in land-use projects), the Irvington Garden Club (involvement in this project led by IGC President Ed Myers), and Indy Parks and Recreation.
The project was envisioned by the Irvington Development Organization’s Green Initiative in early 2009, with Jeff Echols spearheading the effort. IDO received a $5,000 IMAGINE Big Grant from Great Indy Neighborhoods Inc. to fund the rain garden’s construction.
Of note, the Irvington Green Initiative is focused on encouraging people to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. As residents of Irvington, IGI members have a particular interest in mitigating the effects of storm water, as the area lies in the Pleasant Run Watershed. Therefore, the Irvington Teaching Rain Garden proved to be an ideal project for the Green Initiative to get engaged in.
Several ICES classes participated in the planting operation, including students from Mr. Stallard’s 3rd grade class and Mrs. Daugherty and Ms. Stanfill’s 4th grade classes. The kids took to the work right away and were remarkably careful. As a result, all 1,200 plants (comprised of 126 Indiana native species) made it safe and sound into the ground by the end of the school day. Adult volunteers from Mundell & Associates, Elements Engineering, the Irvington Garden Club, and several ICES parents provided “technical support” to the young gardeners, working right alongside them on a warm and unusually windy late summer day.
Donors for the rain garden project included:
A2 Design donated all labor and lent equipment for basin construction and tile work
Complete Tree Care donated all brush and tree removal
Greendell Mulch covered 50 percent of the cost of their garden soil mix
Spence Restoration Nursery sold plant plugs at cost
Irvington Garden Club donated 326 fully rooted native plants
Mundell & Associates will be donating educational signage
Williams Creek Consulting donated the prairie seed mix
Indianapolis Department of Public Works donated the salvaged limestone curbs for the water rakes
Mundell & Associates, with input from ICES faculty, developed a PowerPoint presentation to serve as an educational resource for ICES teachers and encourage class visits to the rain garden. The rain garden is, essentially, a living science lab and thereby offers a readily available dynamic learning environment. Mundell’s Chris Jaros and Chieh-ling Lai presented the slide deck at the October 18th Parent Teacher Student Association meeting at ICES.
So when the snow melts, days get longer, sunshine is abundant, temperatures warm, and new plant life pushes through the earth, those signs of spring will be your signal to visit the Irvington Teaching Rain Garden. (Please be sure to first check in at the ICES front desk.) And come back often to observe the progress of the plant growth as spring turns to summer, as well as visit the Irvington Teaching Rain Garden page on Facebook for photo and video updates. Who knows, you might even be inspired to create your own rain garden in a suitable location in your yard or "plant a seed" for such a worthwhile project at your workplace.
To learn more about rain gardens from some local expert sources, go to the Marion County Soil and Water Conservation District and the City of Indianapolis Office of Sustainability websites.
ICES is very grateful to be the site of the Irvington Teaching Rain Garden. Our deepest thanks to all the organizations and volunteers that made this great green project happen!