With a summer frequently interrupted by rainy days and thunderstorms, Culver’s rain garden, also known as a bio-engineered storm water filtration facility, couldn’t have arrived at a better time. The new garden, situated near the parking lot between the Waterfield Health Center and the Woodcraft Library, offers both environmental and educational value.
The rain garden helps improve the water quality of Lake Maxinkuckee. When rain falls on hard surfaces, like a parking lot or roof, the water picks up contaminants, like oil or sediment. If these contaminants aren’t removed, when the rain water drains to the lake, the contaminants will be there as well. A rain garden provides a natural way to filter the storm water, and the native plants, rocks, and mulch slow the runoff, allowing the water to infiltrate into the ground. In the root zone of the plants, bacteria, bugs and other microscopic organisms, help break down the pollutants in the water. The entire cycle aids in sending cleaner water to the lake.
This past school year, under the guidance of Sustainability Director Chris Kline ’82 and Facilities Grounds Director Dave Blalock, CMA first-classmen Harrison Harm, John Henderson, and Reeves McKinney, with assistance from Chris Chandler and Zain Kohdr, pursued the rain garden venture for their Senior Service Practicum. The students helped design the garden and were successful in securing a matching grant from the Marshall County Soil and Water Conservation District. Funding from the Surdna Foundation also helped to make the project possible.
Creating the garden required both persistence and manual labor from the team of students, Kline recalled. First, they removed the layer of turf grass and then roto-tilled in its place mulch and leaf compost. This process encouraged the growth of healthy soil, where bugs and worms thrive.
As the project works through its early stages, the rain garden team often makes adjustments to produce the best results. Kline hopes this first garden can be used as stepping stone for integrating more rain gardens into the campus landscape, noting “It’s a sign of a healthy campus.”
Not only does the rain garden’s presence create better circumstances for the environment, but it also acts an entry point for education. Kline collaborated with a graphic designer from nearby Ancilla College and formulated an informational sign that complements the project. It will be used as a tool to teach campers about how a rain garden functions and why it is important.
The sign was just formally introduced to Woodcraft’s campus with a ribbon cutting on July 24. Campers from the insect class, Col. Heike Spahn, and the sustainability interns, Madi Berman ’15, Regina Padilla ’15, and Julia Smith ’17, all gathered around to officially welcome the new project onto campus. Kline paid thanks to key contributors: Kathy Clark, representing the Lake Maxinkuckee Environmental Council, and Deb Palmer from Marshall County Soil and Water Conservation District for their help in making it possible. Before Spahn cut the ribbon, Kline expressed hope for similar future projects: “This is one more small project, hopefully we can build more of these on our campus here at Culver to make our lake healthier.”