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Four rain gardens installed at University Baptist Church

The gardens will filter pollutants out of stormwater before it goes into the Mississippi River.
Image by Ethan Fine
Pastor Doug Donley stands in front of one of the rain gardens outside of University Baptist Church, Tuesday, Sept. 21. The Church’s four rain gardens are estimated to filter through 133,000 gallons of rain water each year.

Outside the University Baptist Church, a group of singers performed as local pastor Doug Donley explained how the church’s new rain gardens would work. Donley said the gardens were an “oasis” in Marcy-Holmes.

On Sept. 19, Donley and other church members dedicated four new rain gardens, which are intended to block pollutants from flowing into the Mississippi River.

Stormwater will run off the church’s roof into gutters and through channel drains to be naturally filtered and absorbed in the gardens, rather than running into the street where it could be polluted with oil and other sediments. The polluted water from the street often ends up in the Mississippi River. The rain gardens are expected to filter 133,000 gallons of water and keep 179 pounds of sediment out of the river within the next year.

“So much of Dinkytown has been paved over and green spaces are few and far between,” Donley said. “We’ve long prided ourselves on the beautiful gardens that we have and the way we use our outdoor space … and we just think that rain gardens enhance that.”

Helping Hand Companies, an environmental stewardship company, planted the plants in the rain gardens. Founder Jared Hanks said the company works with young adults to connect them with jobs in the gardening and landscaping industry. Metro Blooms, a nonprofit that works with communities to tackle environmental issues, installed the rain gardens.

Angee Ohmah Siegel works at Helping Hand and led the crew that planted at the church.

“[The gardens] are providing food for the different insects, birds and aquatic animals, where their habitats are basically disappearing as urban environments continue to grow,” Siegel said. “Our primary goal is to work on projects that are supportive to the native ecosystems and also supportive to community education.”

A sign outside of University Baptist Church marks one of the Church’s rain gardens, Tuesday, Sept. 21. The Church’s four rain gardens are estimated to filter through 133,000 gallons of rain water each year. (Ethan Fine)

The church received two grants from the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization to design the gardens and then install them in August.

Alicia Beattie is the capital projects and stewardship specialist at the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization. She said their mission is to improve water quality for the urban Mississippi watershed, which is the land that drains rainfall into the Mississippi River.

“This project really stood out both for its environmental benefits, as well as the church’s strong partnerships and commitment to educating and engaging the folks that are interested in replicating this across the landscape,” Beattie said.

The church is partnering with other organizations, such as the GAIA Democratic school and the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association to provide education about rain gardens and the watershed.

Beattie said Mississippi Watershed Management would continue to work with University Baptist Church for one year. Pastor Donley said there would be educational signs throughout the gardens that will show how they filter the water and tours for those who are interested.

“They are going to be doing various educational initiatives,” Beattie said. “Education around chloride reductions, stormwater runoff, some storm drain cleanups and enrollment in the Adopt-A-Drain Program and also some youth water education activities.”

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the organization responsible for installing the rain gardens. Metro Blooms installed the gardens, while Helping Hands planted the plants.

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  • Jon Vought
    Sep 27, 2021 at 12:39 pm

    Thank you University Baptist!