A Rain Garden on Hancock Avenue
Takoma Park, 2010

Text and Photos by Kit Gage

A Traditional Fix

A traditional fix to a very eroded ravine was suggested: just pipe that stormwater out of the ravine and into the storm drain so it can go straight to Sligo Creek. To the City of Takoma Park’s credit, it said no, that’s not a fix.

An appropriate solution to the raging stormwater at the end of Hancock, just below the hidden little Opal Daniels Park was a controlled parapet of rocks and plants with a side chute to a large rain garden. With that design, a one inch rain would be diverted to the big saucer of a rain garden to infiltrate into the ground instead of shooting all that silt and any pesticides or fertilizer from the area into Sligo Creek. If the rainfall were to exceed one inch then the excess would go down the spillway, slowed by the stepped rocks that stop the erosion.

Lauren Wheeler of Natural Resources Design, Inc. did the design. The engineering firm was ATR Associates. Environmental Quality Resources (EQR) was the contractor.

The newly planted rain garden:

How It Happened

Saturday, June 19, 2010, about 30 of us (mostly from the neighborhood, but also from Friends of Sligo Creek and Takoma Horticultural Club) planted the rain garden – with lovely huge Serviceberry trees, lots of native shrubs, cardinal flowers, Joe Pye Weed, and etc.

Scraping the 5-10 inches of mulch away to dig into the half-sand soil was a pain, but once we were at the sandy soil, the digging was easy. The diggers ranged from teen-aged to don’t-ask-my-agers. It was hot, but water, juice and bagels were plentiful. It was all planted up and watered by morning’s end.

That fall, we spent the donations from Friends of Sligo Creek and Takoma Horticultural Club to plant up the edge and put up a sign so people can learn what a fantastic installation this is. It curbs pollution, infiltrates rainwater, uses native plants to facilitate plant survival, attracts and supports pollinators, minimizes growth of exotic invasive weeds.

And it’s a beauty.

Lauren Wheeler from Natural Resources Design planting a black gum tree:

Community youth volunteers at the Planting Work Day:

Community volunteers planting in the rain garden:

Margaret Bowman (community organizer for this event) and volunteers planting on rain garden berm:

Kit Gage talking about rain garden and sustainable landscaping to volunteers: