The town of Charlestown and Save The Bay are building six demonstration rain gardens at town-owned facilities, including the Kimball Pavilion at Ninigret Park and the pavilion at Charlestown Town Beach.
Funding for the project is provided by a $878,857 Southeast New England program grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Designed to collect stormwater from roofs, driveways and other hard surfaces, rain gardens are shallow, landscaped depressions that slow the flow of water to storm drains and water bodies.
Rain gardens hold stormwater so it can gradually seep into the ground. In addition to recharging groundwater, rain gardens remove pollutants and reduce flooding. They are typically shallow gardens that are planted with perennials and native shrubs, providing habitat for birds and beneficial insects.
With assistance from campers at the Ninigret Park summer day camp, the first rain garden was installed in July 2018 at the Kimball Pavilion in Ninigret Park. The garden will eventually feature a kiosk-type board that will explain how rain gardens improve water quality and how to people can install them at their homes and businesses.
“It’s good,” Town Council President Virginia Lee said. “I know they worked on it with Save The Bay and it’s demo’ed, functioning and they’re already taking groups, including kids, and explaining about it.”
Charlestown On-Site Wastewater Manager Matthew Dowling said additional rain gardens would be installed in early summer.
“We are planning another rain garden installation at Blue Shutters and a larger stormwater management rain garden to treat stormwater from the parking lot at Charlestown Town Beach before June,” he said.
Lee said with climate change bringing warmer and rainier summers, adaptations such as rain gardens would become more common.
“The climate change predictions for the northeast part of this country are wetter and warmer,” she said. “So all of the flooding people who have been concerned about all the rain we’ve just had, we can expect more of that, not less. So something like a rain garden is even more useful and helpful for people.”
Information on installing a home rain garden is available from the University of Rhode Island at https://web.uri.edu/riss/take-action/simple-steps-at-home/rain-gardens/installing-a-rain-garden/.