by: Blair Ezra, Summer SRF Intern
On Wednesday, July 2nd, the Watershed Stewards Academy (WSA) hosted a volunteer event to help complete projects that promote clean water in the community of Hillsmere, located in Annapolis, Maryland. About two dozen people gathered in the morning to plant the first rain garden of the day. The purpose of a rain garden is to prevent stormwater runoff from polluting the South River and Chesapeake Bay. Stormwater runoff is a serious problem for many watersheds, especially the South River and Chesapeake Bay. It is caused by rain flowing over water resistant surfaces, that don’t let the water soak into them, like driveways, parking lots, and rooftops. The runoff picks up all the dirt, chemicals, oils, and other pollutants on the ground and carries them into local waterways. Rain gardens reduce stormwater runoff by absorbing the rainwater that contains the pollutants. The pollutants go into the ground and the water feeds the plants instead of running off into local waterways.
The handful of rain gardens the volunteers planted on Wednesday are in neighborhoods that are considered to be in the “critical area.” Five active master watershed stewards and two community members organized this project. The stewards want to educate the community about rainwater and the steps they can take to prevent water pollutions. Cleaning the River or Bay starts on land and can even start in your own yard! By using less or no pesticides to picking up after your pets, that bacteria is then carried into the water via stormwater runoff, little steps like these will promote healthier and cleaner waterways.
The community of Hillsmere is working collectively to become conscious of their actions involving their yards, and how they can come together to clean up their neighborhood and nearby watershed. The stewards carefully chose ten properties in the community that they decided were appropriate to conduct these projects on. The WSA installed cisterns on the houses and planted rain gardens in the appropriate area in their yard to prevent stormwater from flooding the backyard or creating runoff. The homeowners paid a small fee for this process, but most of the cost for the design and construction of this was paid for with grant money from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) or the South River Federation (SRF), along with the volunteer time by many people.
The first year of this project aims at installing rainscaping projects and the second year is targeting people to have bay friendly properties. Many homeowners don’t realize how important this project is and how much they can help, so the WSA will help this community take action to being bay-friendly! This project will educate people about rainwater and how to protect their waterways. Once this project is complete, the WSA plans to open this plan to the county, to help other people promote clean water.