August 04 2011

Residential Rain Gardens: Promoting Community and Conservation

Rain gardens can be found in several public spaces within Lincoln, Nebraska. Sometimes a sign is placed within the landscape, drawing attention to the rain garden and its usefulness to the environment. Unfortunately, not all of these gardens are maintained consistently to make them attractive.

The city of Lincoln is actively promoting the installation of rain gardens in residential areas with a 50-50 Rain Garden Cost Share Program to financially help homeowners with this beneficial landscape feature. Resources about designing and installing a rain garden are included on the city web site. In addition, a workshop titled Build Your Own Rain Garden: Homeowner Edition is offered in the spring and fall at a local community college.

While more people in the Lincoln community are becoming more informed about the benefits of a rain garden, I wonder how their perceptions are affected when they see a rain garden that is full of weeds within a public space. Selling them on the idea of installing one in their own yard is probably diminished. What are some concepts that could be implemented within the community to keep rain gardens in public spaces well-maintained, especially during this time of financial stress?

Many organizations, with a direct connection to the environment, exist in every area. Garden clubs, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and 4-H are just a few that come to mind. Maintenance of public rain gardens would be an excellent way for groups to provide service to the community.

In addition to strengthening their community, they would also be learning firsthand about rain gardens, and ultimately about environmental sustainability. A public elementary school in Lincoln is already getting young children involved to become stewards of the environment by installing an outdoor classroom. Public space rain gardens could become classrooms for the entire city.

Promoting rain gardens by a city is a wonderful idea. Motivating a community to install them privately might be more of a challenge. Urban planners and landscape architects are in the best position to reach out, motivate, and provide support and information.

What community involvement do you see in your area? Does your community have a rain garden program?

Shelley Rekte

Shelley Rekte is a native of Lincoln, Nebraska, a graduate of the University of Nebraska, and works within the environmental design sector. As a mother, she has seen many changes in the world around her, as well as the differences between her son’s life experiences and her own. Shelley understands the importance of the environment and strives to broaden her perspective, with the aspiration of expanding the perspectives of others for developing equitable communities. Shelley Rekte blogged for The Grid until October 2011.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, August 4th, 2011 at 11:47 am and is filed under Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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