One of the first initiatives focusing on our theme of the year, Planet Earth, was the installation of a rain garden on campus during orientation.
Located adjacent to the Dining and Community Room, the rain garden was planted by new students in the classes of 2021 and 2020 as part of a community service portion of orientation in August. The rain garden was installed with the help of the Eastern Connecticut Conservation District as part of a grant that is funded by the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation through a program called the Long Island Futures Fund. The Long Island Futures Fund aims to create programs that help to protect the Long Island Sound.
“Almost all the waters in Connecticut flow into Long Island Sound, including the French River in Thompson, which is where water from the Marianapolis property flows,” said Judy Rondeau, Assistant Director at the Eastern Connecticut Conservation District.
According to Rondeau, rain gardens are essential in helping to prevent the spread of non-point source pollution or NPS for short. When rainwater flows across a landscape, various pollutants will travel in the water, such as anything that is dropped or put on the ground. These pollutants include things such as dirt, trash, lawn and garden chemicals, fluids from vehicles, septic, sewage, animal waste, and pollutants that are in air currents. Pollutants are carried by rainwater and deposited into water bodies which can in turn harm aquatic habitats and organisms. It can also make water unsafe for swimming and drinking.
“Rain gardens are different from other gardens in that they are concave or bowl-shaped so they can trap and hold rainwater,” said Rondeau. “They are strategically placed in locations where they intercept stormwater on its overland journey.”
The rain garden at Marianapolis is part of a project called 100 Rain Gardens and 100 Rain Barrels. “Our goal was to install 100 rain gardens and give away 100 rain barrels in our district in one calendar year,” explained Rondeau. “The Marianapolis rain garden helps us to reach that goal. The project ends in October 2019, and with the help of community partners like MPrep, we exceeded our goals!”
Rondeau explained that “rain gardens are sized to contain the first inch of rainfall, which is the volume of rainfall that is most likely to contain the highest percentage of NPS, from a known area, such as a rooftop, driveway, or lawn area.”
Once it rains, the rain garden will hold the rainwater as it gets soaked up by the ground. The organisms in the soil will break down the pollutants resulting in clean water entering the groundwater table, Rondeau said.
“The rain garden disconnects that portion of the landscape, preventing those pollutants from entering the natural system. Rain gardens allow homeowners to help protect and improve water quality in their communities while providing an attractive landscape feature that they can enjoy for years to come,” said Rondeau.
For more information about the Eastern Connecticut Conservation District, visit www.conservect.org/eastern.