Rain garden project aims to combat pollution

Jun 14, 2010

Standing on the Rain Garden bridge are (from left) Professor Michael Fleischacker,  student Gio Thomas, Doylestown Township Supervisor Barbara Lyons, and Vice President for Institutional Advancement Joseph Erckert.

By Annmarie Ely

When storm water runs off of a property it can wash pollutants such as pet waste, motor oil, pesticides and fertilizer off driveways and yards and into water sources.

Delaware Valley College, Doylestown Township and the Bucks County Conservation District are collaborating to educate residents about "greener" approaches to dealing with storm water.

As part of this effort, a student designed rain garden was dedicated at DelVal on June 11. Rain gardens, which are dug into bowl-like shapes, help to contain and filter excess water.

"It's an outstanding result," said Barbara Lyons, chairman of the Doylestown Township Board of Supervisors. "It is going to provide a lot of incentive for folks in this community to utilize their natural resources."

Joseph Erckert, vice president for Institutional Advancement, was happy to be part of another collaborative effort between DelVal and the community.

"This isn't the first time I've shared a podium with Doylestown Township and it won't be the last," said Erckert.

The garden, which will be used as a community teaching tool, was designed by Gio Thomas, a DelVal student in Professor Michael Fleischacker's Environmental Design class.

Fleischacker had his students create designs as a class project. Most students worked in groups, but Thomas worked alone.

The DelVal garden includes a small bridge that divides two basins. The garden will receive and filter water from the downspouts at Ulman Hall. The project also uses a combination of piping and plants to deal with water that was running down from the quad and creating huge puddles.

"It came out better than I thought," said Thomas. "Working on the garden was a learning process. I tried to soak in as much as possible, the good and the bad that you go through in a process like this, to use in my future."

The project was funded by a Water Resources Education Network grant from the League of Women Voters.

According to Julie A. Kollar, program director for the Water Resources Education Network, the rain garden was selected from a competitive grant round.

Approximately, 11 out of 63 proposals were awarded funding last year.

Kollar said the rain garden stood out because it was a collaborative effort by students and their municipality that would of "involve students in hands on educational opportunities."

According to the Bucks County Conservation District, up to 70 percent of pollution in streams, rivers and lakes comes from storm water run off.

Kollar hopes that this project will inspire more.

"As special as this rain garden is we hope that one day it becomes the norm," said Kollar. "Communities around Bucks County are highly dependent on ground water. It is important to clean the water entering the water table."

Lyons said rain gardens are "an easy and efficient way for everyone to contribute."

Some of the plants in the DelVal garden include: Grey Birch, Winterberry, Christmas Fern, Jacob's Ladder, and Sundrops.

To learn how to create your own rain garden visit