SPRINGFIELD, NJ — A rain garden presentation by landscape architect Tobiah Horton and Marian Glenn, of the Rahway River Watershed Association, took place at the Springfield Library on Thursday, Jan. 26. The benefits of rain gardens, which include flood prevention, water purification, erosion prevention and water conservation, were discussed as well as their construction — a simple process that involves digging an 18-inch hole.
A grant from Sustainable Jersey along with funds provided by the Board of Education and Commission of Public Works has paid for the installation of six rain gardens in Springfield.
“I thought it was a wonderful idea and I was glad to have the opportunity to make this program available to the people in Springfield,” library Director Dale Spindel told LocalSource in a recent phone interview.
Glenn spoke briefly about the effects of imperviousness on runoff and infiltration. Imperviousness refers to the inability for a surface to absorb water. Glenn said most water evaporates off or infiltrates natural grounds, whereas residential grounds have more runoff and less evaporation and infiltration, so there is a need for rain gardens.
“We have a couple of rain gardens in town that look nice and I want to make my own or create new ones in town where it might be feasible,” Geri Ann Bujnowski, the liaison for the Environmental Commission and a Springfield Township Committee member, said.
There are two rain gardens in Springfield currently being used as educational tools: at Caldwell Elementary School and Jonathan Dayton High School. They are used to illustrate science concepts; additionally, the rain garden at the high school sustains a vegetable garden.
A project in Rahway included the installation of 17 residential rain gardens during the past few years, with one resident reusing concrete to build seat walls in the garden in order to make it as sustainable as possible.
“The New Jersey Rain Garden Manual and Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge have lists of native plants that can be used in rain gardens,” Horton said during the presentation. “The installation of rain gardens at nurseries can help with drainage issues.”
Flood prevention is another benefit of rain gardens, and having 1,000 rain gardens in a community would drastically reduce the amount of flooding. They are relatively inexpensive to install, too, costing about $5 to $20 per square feet, according to the presentation.
“I think there are places along the river in Clark in great need of rain gardens,” Scott Aruta of Friends of Rahway River Parkway told LocalSource in an interview. “We are working to put together a program.”
Residents of Springfield who attended the program were also interested in building more rain gardens in their town after hearing about them.
“I learned a lot and I’m going to think about installing a rain garden at my home,” Grace Reina of Springfield told LocalSource in an interview. “I never knew what a rain garden looked like.”