Rain Gardens are a form of low-impact, sustainable landscaping, intended to mitigate the effects of rainfall on impervious surfaces such as pavement and rooftops. Situated at the source of stormwater run-off, a rain garden is designed to slow the flow of water, absorb excess nutrients and filter pollutants.
The UNE rain garden was a grant funded, collaborative environmental service learning project. Funded by an EPA subgrant through Maine Campus Compact, the project involved five faculty members and 49 students from conception to completion. The instructors involved included Christine Feurt, Ph.D Assistant Lecturer, Alethea Cariddi, Sustainability Coordinator, Thomas Klak, Ph.D. Professor, Theo Dunfey, Coordinator of Citizenship and Service Learning, and Bethany Woodworth, Ph.D. Assistant Lecturer. Students in these classes collected an annotated bibliography about rain garden design and case studies of other campus projects, developed design, installation and maintenance plans for a garden on the UNE campus, grew the majority of plants in the garden from seed, planted the garden and developed educational materials for use in the garden. Tremendous collaborative support was lent by the Facilities Team during construction.
UNE’s rain garden collects stormwater from the surrounding parking lots, and inflow pipe, and from direct rainfall. The plants of the rain garden were specifically chosen for their ability to tolerate drought and/or excess water conditions. There are over 150 individual plants in the rain garden, representing 17+ native species. All of the plants in the rain garden are native to Maine and thereby provide valuable resources and habitat to Maine’s native wildlife. Multiple plant characteristics were accounted for in the design of the garden for aesthetic and practical purposes. Plant height, texture, bloom color, bloom season, water and soil requirements were all features that played into the arrangement of plants.
Sustainability and Education
The aesthetic benefit of the reclaimed parking lot center that was transformed into a botanical haven is the most obvious benefit, but there are intangible rewards as well. A stone walking path, bridge, and seating have been incorporated into the garden for visitors’ enjoyment. Efforts were made to incorporate sustainable elements in the project. Compost was donated by the former Marine Animal Rehabilitation Center and mixed with soil to provide the base for the garden. The wood for the bridge, the plants, and signage were all sourced from local businesses. The Adirondack chairs are made from 240 recycled milk jugs. Educational components of the garden include an informational brochure and plaque, rain gauge and plant identification tags. Additionally the UNE Grounds Crew learned about the ecological benefits of native, perennial plants and was inspired to work with more of these plants. The students involved learned about working with different community stakeholders and the environmental impacts of human activity on our water resources. Overall the rain garden embodies collaborative, innovative, real-life and hands-on learning for students, faculty, staff and the UNE Community.