Eastern Kentucky PRIDE

Personal Responsibility in a Desirable Environment

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Rain Gardens

By Tom Biebighauser

You can help the environment by building a rain garden. A rain garden is a shallow depression in the ground that collects runoff, giving waters time to soak into the soil — instead of rushing downhill where they cause flooding and erosion. People are discovering that rain gardens clean runoff from roofs, lawns and parking lots while enhancing the beauty of schools, businesses and homes.

Rain gardens are wetlands, actually wet-meadow wetlands. They contain water only a short time after a rain. Because their soils are moist, they provide ideal growing conditions for the beautiful cardinal flower, rose mallow and copper iris, along with unique sedges and bulrushes. Wet-meadow prairie plants will flourish in rain gardens, where their deep roots greatly help infiltration.

Rain gardens are being used to trap run-off from parking lots. The rain gardens help keep our drinking water clean by serving as filters to remove oil and antifreeze. Developers are using rain gardens to landscape parking lots instead of unnatural raised traffic islands that must be kept watered. Homeowners are building rain gardens to clean water flowing off roofs, as a rain garden easily cleanses water from one or more downspouts.

You can build a rain garden without detailed plans or specialized equipment. Simply look for ditches that carry water from roofs, lawns and parking lots. See if portions can be modified to form depressions with gradual slopes that give water time to soak into the ground. For more information about rain gardens and how to build them, visit the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources web site.

PRIDE can help you plan the construction of rain gardens. For more information about rain garden funding or assistance from PRIDE, please e-mail PRIDE at pride@centertech.com.


About Tom Biebighauser

Tom Biebighauser is a wildlife biologist and wetland ecologist with decades of experience in wetland and stream restoration. He currently owns and operates Wetland Restoration and Training LLC. He retired in 2013 from a 35-year career as a wildlife biologist for the USDA Forest Service, stationed from 1998 until 2013 at the Morehead Ranger District of the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky. As a PRIDE consultant, Tom assists schools and nonprofit organizations across the region with wetland education and construction.

Tom began making wetlands in 1982 on the Superior National Forest in Minnesota. He moved to Kentucky in 1988 and has since established over 700 seasonal, permanent, emergent, and forested wetlands in Kentucky and Ohio. He built these wetlands in partnership with numerous organizations and thousands of volunteers.

Tom received a National Forest System Taking Wing Award for completing the Wild Wings Wetland Project in 1993, a Taking Wing Award for Leadership in Wetland Restoration in 1998, and a Taking Wing Award for Community Involvement in 2001. In 1999, he was the recipient of the Award of Merit sponsored by Goodyear and the National Association of Conservation Districts for outstanding accomplishments in resource conservation practices. He was the 2005 recipient of Eastern Kentucky PRIDE’s Kentucky PRIDE Award for his leadership in restoring the state’s wetlands and his commitment to educating children and adults about wetlands.

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