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Keeping the Rain Where It Falls


April 26, 2012 by Steve Winkler

About a dozen folks descended on West Fork’s Heritage Gardens adjacent to the recycle center Wednesday afternoon to install the town’s first rain garden. Volunteers came from Farmington, Baldwin, Fayetteville and West Fork, representing several organizations including the Washington County Master Gardeners, Illinois River Watershed Partnership and Beaver Water District. The gathering was a chance for hands on training in the installation of rain gardens which help protect our water supply from stormwater, the number one pollutant of our nation’s waterways.

The volunteers planted drought resistant native plants in a slightly dug out and bermed garden. Rain gardens allow storm runoff to infiltrate into the earth which means surplus runoff caused by impervious surfaces is reduced. Also plants and soil bacteria treat pollutants that the runoff has picked up as it flows across pavements or heavily fertilized lawns according to information provided by the Rain Garden Project of Beaver Water District.

Most existing rain gardens in our area serve as demonstration projects located in public parks in Fayetteville. The concept hasn’t gone unnoticed by area builders, particularly by those “building Green.” Clint Penzo of Penzo Custom Homes visited the West Fork garden site to learn more about excavation.

“I plan to build some LEED certified homes in Fayetteville and will incorporate rain gardens in the site plan. ” Penzo told the Observer. He said he has attended classs at the Rain Garden Academy where he learned about the West Fork project.
The rain gardens involve more that planting shrubs in a low spot. There is a science and some math involved in having a successful rain garden. Having the right soil condition, fill material and plants can all impact the garden.

Keeping our drinking water save and our environment unpolluted is everybody’s concern. And it is sometimes the smallest of projects in many places that will make the biggest difference.

West Fork volunteers are doing their part to save the planet.

Steve Winkler

Steve Winkler is the publisher and editor of the Observer. Email him at

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