Monday, July 25, 2016

School, Church and Commercial Site Projects Move Forward

By Sage Passi

Barr Engineering and District 622 Facilities staff meet with the contractor on site at Maplewood Middle School in July.

Teamwork, technical know-how, creativity, persistence and a commitment to clean water - all add up to a recipe for success when it comes to completing the eight rain garden projects in the timeline this summer. Below is an update on our progress.

Heavy Lifting at Schools Almost Complete

Rain garden construction underway in early July at Maplewood Middle School.

It has been nearly three weeks since earth-moving equipment began construction in School District 622. The installation of rain gardens at three schools; Maplewood Middle School, Weaver Elementary and Harmony Learning Center, a large scale effort in the planning stages for close to two years, is nearing completion. The process has been going smoothly and we are excited to be closing in on the finish line.

Over a period of two years, we assessed all the public schools in the District for potential stormwater retrofits that could infiltrate water from large impervious surfaces and then prioritized those sites using funds from a $50,000 Legacy Accelerated Implementation Grant. Barr Engineering spearheaded this assessment and helped us narrow our choices to eleven schools based on their potential stormwater quality benefit, constructability and educational value. Those sites were further prioritized and five sites were chosen for rain garden installations in 2016 and 2017. A sixth site is still being determined. 

In the fall of 2015 RWMWD wrote and secured a $150,000 Clean Water Partnership Grant for the construction of six rain garden projects using supplemental funds from the Watershed District. After numerous planning meetings with school district staff, a bidding process with potential contractors, pre-construction meetings and the “heavy lifting” of construction, these projects are in the ground! Here are some snapshots of each of the projects at the three schools.

Maplewood Middle School is by far the largest project. They have one rain garden at the road entry to their north entrance and two adjoining large rain gardens at the south end of their east parking lot.


Harmony Learning Center’s rain garden is located near their lower parking lot adjacent to the ball fields on their site.

Weaver Elementary School’s rain garden is the smallest project of the three sites, although it looks pretty large in this photo! The rain garden takes run-off from the school's back parking lot, as well as some roof run-off.

We’re making plans for the planting of these rain gardens this fall with school volunteers and assistance from Master Gardeners and other partners including Maplewood Nature Center and Harding Earth Club. Incorporating an educational component has been an important priority endorsed by teachers and administrators at each of the schools. We chose a hands-on approach in addition to lessons in the classroom because the Watershed District has a strong emphasis on service learning. It takes a lot of coordination, but we know student involvement can have a big pay-back and impact.

Three New Church Projects Cross Over the Finish Line…Next Step are the Plants

One of two rain garden basins installed at Parkview United
Church of Christ in White Bear Lake.
Construction of these church rain gardens is almost complete with funds from another Clean Water Fund Grant. These projects are located at Parkview United Church of Christ and St. Stephen Lutheran Church in White Bear Lake and Christ United Methodist Church in Maplewood. These rain gardens will be planted this fall and a dedication ceremony will be held with each congregation.

Staff are working with two more churches to potentially install rain gardens next summer and are still looking for one additional church partner. If you attend a church within RWMWD and think that their site would be a suitable place for a rain garden, please contact Paige Ahlborg either by emailing Paige or calling her at 651-792-7964. She will setup a site visit to determine if there are rain garden opportunities on the property and if it qualifies for the grant. 

Active church teams at both St. Stephen Lutheran Church (pictured above) and  Parkview United Church of Christ helped to make their projects successful.

Retrofit Projects at Commercial Sites are in Motion

Construction at Wells Fargo in Woodbury

Staff are also moving forward with retrofit projects at commercial sites around the District. Currently a project at Wells Fargo in Woodbury is underway. Next month, we will remove a portion of the parking lot at the Slumberland on Suburban Avenue in St. Paul and replace the area with a native prairie planting. We have never done a project like this, so we are very excited to work with Slumberland on this project.

It’s been a very busy summer and we are looking forward to seeing the outcome of these collaborations with schools, faith communities and businesses.

We want to thank all the partners who have made these projects possible, with special appreciation for the support from our Clean Water Land and Legacy Grants.

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