Infrastructure going green in Rogue River watershed

TU installed a rain garden at Parkside school in Michigan.

By Jamie Vaughan

Hairy Penstemon is blooming at the Parkside Elementary Rain Garden in Michigan.

This rain garden is a type of green infrastructure utilizing native plants to help developed areas function more naturally, thus keeping polluted and warmed stormwater runoff out of Rum Creek.

We were out in the community with Abigail Henschell (pictured above), summer intern of Rockford Sustainability-Michigan. We were doing some spring cleaning at the Parkside Elementary Rain Garden and saw some beautiful things in bloom like Blue Flag Iris and Hairy Beardtongue.

The project was detailed in a recent Wild Ones River City-Grand Rapids Area Chapter Green Infrastructure presentation, which is available to view on YouTube.

Green infrastructure like this makes communities healthier and more resilient, leading to improved water and air quality, cooler air temperatures, and psychological and cognitive benefits for people.

Thanks to the faculty, staff, and students of Parkside who made this project possible as well as our partners at Plaster Creek Stewards who designed this project. This project was funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. 

The Rogue River team also recently did some spring maintenance at two curb-cut gardens in the Barkley Creek headwaters in Cannon Township.

This past fall, the Kent County Road Commission put the finishing touches on the curb cuts and this spring we added more plants and made sure things were functioning well.

We were amazed to see the incredible growth that’s happened in the last year and a half.

Thanks to Rebecca Marquardt of Revery who designed and installed these gardens and Thea Van Goor of West Michigan Environmental Action Council who has adopted them and helps maintain them.

These gardens were funded by National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and help soak up and filter polluted runoff that would otherwise enter Barkley Creek.

Downtown Rockford rain gardens are also blooming, with Columbine, buttercup, False Solomon’s Seal, and a variety of cool sedges.

The three gardens downtown are a collaborative effort of many great community partners and funders including City of RockfordGroundswell MichiganWildflower Association of Michigan, East Rockford Middle School and Rockford Education Foundation 

The crew was working Rockford with Rockford Sustainability-Michigan summer intern Abigail Henschell.

Abigail is studying environmental science at Michigan State University and will be helping us maintain the stormwater gardens in downtown Rockford, and much more.

The native gardens don’t look like much now, but soon they will be bursting with blooms of beautiful native plants that are helping to keep the Rogue River cold and clean.