Rain garden helps reduce pollutants by Haas parking lot
Students and faculty parking in the Haas Fine Arts Center parking lot may have noticed the area is a little greener lately.
On Wednesday, Sept. 9, volunteers teamed up with Facilities Planning and Management to plant a rain garden to collect runoff from the lot.
Rain gardens are landscaped areas planted with native vegetation to soak up excess rainwater, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Web site. A rain garden’s purpose is to filter out pollutants from streets, parking lots and lawns, carried by the rainwater runoff, and prevent them from entering streams and lakes.
When the student-run UW-Eau Claire Conservationists Organization proposed the idea of adding a rain garden at the university, Lynn Peterson, assistant director for operations at Facilities Planning and Management, said she knew just where the university needed one.
Peterson said the site for a rain garden was chosen in response to complaints that the area next to the Haas parking lot was not aesthetically pleasing, and that pollutants from the lot, such as gas, oil and salt, drained directly into the local water table.
There was also concern of mosquitoes breeding in the area. Considerable amounts of rainwater runoff drained improperly, creating a habitat for the insects, said Crispin Pierce, associate professor of environmental public health and faculty advisor for the Conservationists.
To fix the problem, Peterson designed the garden using more than 60 species of perennial native grass or grass-like plants, specifically choosing specimens that were moisture-loving and had long root systems. Such plants make the soil more permeable, hold moisture well and break down pollutants, she said.
The planting of the garden was “a collaborative effort from a lot of different people,” Peterson said. More than 40 volunteers, comprised of Eau Claire staff and students, as well as community members, planted more than 2,600 specimens to create the garden.
Pierce said he is proud of the garden.
“The garden provides faculty and students, as well as the community, with something nice and sustainable,” Pierce said.