Demonstrating practical community approaches to managing stormwater runoff

The Ojibway Nature Park Rain Garden.  Photo: Karen Cedar.

2014-2015 Funding: $6,000, including $2,000 provided by the Great Lakes Sustainability Fund

Other Project Contributors: City of Windsor, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Essex Region Conservation Authority, and Friends of Ojibway Prairie.

A new “rain garden”, built in a west end Windsor park with the support of the Great Lakes Sustainability Fund, is demonstrating a practical, low-cost approach to managing stormwater runoff and improving the health of the Detroit River.

The Ojibway Nature Park Rain Garden project - one of the first of its kind in the Detroit River watershed - is hoping to encourage municipalities and homeowners to apply “low impact development” features to help reduce the effects of stormwater runoff. For decades, the Detroit River watershed has been subject to extensive industrial activity and urban development on both sides of the river. Better management of stormwater runoff from municipal and residential areas contributes to improved water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and flood control.

Rain gardens are shallow, bowl-shaped landscaped areas planted with wildflowers and other hardy native vegetation. They typically are created in low-lying areas where water otherwise would drain quickly into storm sewers. The gardens temporarily retain stormwater and snowmelt from roofs, lawns, parking lots and roads, and so reduce the volume of water entering storm sewers. Rain gardens also prevent fertilizers, pesticides and other sediments from entering waterways by filtering water slowly through the ground instead of allowing it to run directly into storm drains.

The Ojibway Nature Park rain garden was built largely through the work of volunteers from the Friends of Ojibway Prairie, a community organization dedicated to promoting public awareness of the city’s 350-hectare Ojibway Prairie Complex and the site’s unique biological and historical importance. An interpretive sign was installed at the rain garden project site to inform park visitors about rain gardens and the link between water quality and wildlife habitat. As well, the Essex Region Conservation Authority prepared a guide for homeowners on how to build a rain garden (available at: Essex Region Conservation Authority).

In addition to rain gardens - known as a “bioretention” technique - other low impact development tools for managing stormwater runoff in urban areas include: “green roofs”; permeable paving materials as alternatives to asphalt; and soil additives such as mulch, lime and gypsum, to minimize the effects of soil compaction at residential construction sites.

For more information on the Detroit River Area of Concern, please visit: Detroit River Canadian Cleanup.

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