Indianapolis Rain Garden Project
The Environmental and Water Resources Institute (EWRI) committee of the Metropolitan Indianapolis Branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) is developing a community service program titled “The Indianapolis Rain Garden Program.” The program will serve to highlight the benefits of green sustainable solutions for improving storm water quality and the benefits of reducing flows into the collection system. The Indianapolis Rain Garden Program was initiated through a $20,000 grant from United Water and has allowed seed money for the design and construction of three rain gardens at schools within Marion County, IN.
Members of the ASCE, together with individuals from the Indianapolis Department of Public Works (DPW) and Keep Indianapolis Beautiful (KIB), are currently developing a sustainable program model to educate students and area residents about the benefits associated with this green sustainable technology. It is ASCE’s intention that once developed this model can be used to build similar projects at other institutions.
As education is one of the primary goals, the program model is being developed specifically for schools. This goal will be accomplished by providing teachers with material that will help them integrate the benefits, design concepts, operation, and maintenance of the rain garden into their curriculum. The program is limited to schools in Marion County; the ASCE has identified three schools and continues to work to identify additional schools. Once a participating school is selected, ASCE will design and permit the rain gardens by using draft green infrastructure guidance documents. At completion of the project, the rain garden is turned over to the school for continued maintenance and used to educate generations of students to come.
The development of a rain garden project has several aspects that will make it a positive force for the community, including educational opportunities, beautification, improved environmental quality, and neighborhood and infrastructure benefits. These aspects are further discussed below.
The primary functions of the rain garden program are to educate students and the community and to demonstrate the benefits of green sustainable solutions. It is our hope that this will inspire additional research within the community, as well as a local rain garden movement. For schools, a project can be a “hands-on” tool for students and teachers. School-aged children will benefit from understanding the relationship between rainfall, storm water treatment, plant life, and how the different groups work together. They will be able to learn how certain plants can benefit from the type of ecosystem that would be built and how those plants can perform a function such as filtering storm water to improve the environment. The students will also benefit from active involvement in the design process of the rain garden, including selection of the site location, laying out the rain garden, selection of plant material, and maintenance of the garden. All of these areas will help develop an understanding of how plants work and help improve our environment.
A rain garden project will be an educational tool for the general public as well, demonstrating how individuals can develop their own rain gardens to help treat storm runoff and lessen the need to construct costly storm sewer systems to handle increased runoff.
A rain garden project can serve as a focal point that can provide small areas of beautification for individual sites. The plant materials selected and the design of the rain garden can have a positive visual impact that goes beyond the other aspects. A rain garden can easily become a centerpiece for site beautification that can be expanded to meet future needs and be planted with materials for different seasons.
Along with the positive aspects of beautification comes a sense of pride for participating individuals and neighborhoods. As individuals begin to develop rain gardens on home sites, other neighbors will begin to see the benefits of the gardens to the environment, as well as a way to improve their own lots. Neighborhood parks and other public areas can also be used for larger rain gardens. Our hope is that the program will be a springboard to inspire local residents to develop their own such projects.