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Gary workshop teaches benefits of rain barrels

Students volunteers Banneker Achievement Center joined principal Sarah Givens Gary Community School Corporatisuperintendent Cheryl Pruitt last fall planting trees as

Students and volunteers at Banneker Achievement Center joined principal Sarah Givens and Gary Community School Corporation superintendent Cheryl Pruitt last fall in planting trees as part of a rain garden at the school. | Anthony KaDarrell Thigpen/For Sun-Times Media

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Visitors to the recent Rain Barrel and Rain Garden Workshop at the Douglas Environmental Center in Gary gained more than just information about recycling water and building a rain garden. They also learned exactly what to plant in those gardens, and received a rain barrel for their home.

“We encourage everyone to use these rain barrels (to recycle rain water) and you don’t have to limit yourself to only one,” said Grayling Brown, member of the Student Conservation Association.

“There’s a big benefit involved here — saving money on water bills as we maintain our gardens and landscaping.”

The SCA is a national non-profit with hundreds of teams throughout the U. S. working on projects dedicated to good stewardship over land and communities.

Other topics discussed included the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Goals, presented by the Gary Storm Water Management District; Benefits of a Rain Barrel to Homeowners; Basics of a Rain Garden; Introduction to Native Plants; and Storm Water Pollution Prevention for Citizens, all presented by members of the SCA.

“People need to know about their environment and what they can do to help,” said SCA team leader Jessica Zimmerman.

The GLRI’s mission includes a partnership with the Gary Storm Water Management District and the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, as well as the SCA. The grant funding the projects is from the Environmental Protection Agency to address water quality in the Great Lakes region.

The goal is to decrease the amount of water entering the storm sewer system, as well as improve the quality of water that does enter the MS4 (Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System.)

As part of the grant, the Miller section of Gary was chosen for the development of 12 rain gardens. The Miller MS4 drains directly into the Marquette Park Lagoon.

The gardens were installed this past fall by SCA members on city-owned property that accumulated excess water during storms and snow melts. After the program is completed and evaluated, plans call for other gardens of this type to be planted throughout the city in the future, according to Zimmerman.

“This (project) was a pilot program, to be a template for other towns and cities,” she added.

A variety of native plants were placed within the gardens.

“These plants have a very deep root system, and they need very little care, as they thrive mostly on their own with no special fertilizers or chemicals,” Zimmerman said.

Gloria Allen lives on a small hill near one of the rain gardens located on Miami Street.

She said that representatives from SCA came through the neighborhood, explaining how, when and where the garden would be located. All the neighbors were pleased with the project, she added.

“This (landscaping) is wonderful, a beautiful way to greet people to our neighborhood,” she said of the planting. “And it’s practical, because there’s always water collecting at the bottom of the hill.”

The rain gardens in Miller are located at 7526 Ash Ave.; 300, 500 and 542 N. Miami St.; 100, 700 and 800 Montgomery St.; 6910 Forest St.; 735, and 760 Morgan St.; the intersection of Forest and Morgan Sts., and Banneker Achievement Center.

The Banneker Achievement Center development involved students, who aided in the design and picking out which trees would be planted, according to Sandy Rodriguez, project manager.

“The young people are our future,” she said. “We need to teach them and emphasize good stewardship and concern for this earth that has been entrusted to us.”



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