City will experiment with rain gardens
This summer, St. Paul Park will experiment with the installation of rain gardens to help alleviate stormwater runoff in neighborhoods that do not have storm sewers.
Rain gardens, an old technique being used for new purposes, are a means of controlling stormwater flooding and reducing pollutants that eventually flow into rivers.
"We'll start with the Dixon Drive neighborhood east and south of Pullman, near 14th Street," said Mayor John Hunziker. "If those work, we might consider implementing rain gardens in the River's Edge development."
Hunziker said the first gardens will be installed by the city's public works personnel. "We want to find out what it takes to construct a rain garden and what native plants work best," he said.
The city will work with homeowners on the project. In St. Paul Park, most streets are 36-feet wide with 22-foot public rights of way on both sides of the street.
Other rain gardens
Rain gardens are being considered more often in south Washington County, according to Jay Riggs, manager of the Washington Conservation District, which is based in Stillwater.
Riggs recently addressed an open meeting of the Pineridge Gardening Club in mid March.
"There's a rain garden at the Cottage Grove Park and Ride parking lot and there are plans for quite a few rain gardens at the county's new South Service Center planned for Cottage Grove," Riggs said.
His agency, in place since 1942, is dedicated to preserving and protecting natural resources in the county. It also educates residents through workshops and seminars.
"Rain gardens can help mitigate the impact of development on the environment," Riggs said. "Houses and driveways are designed to shed water fast, and water runs off lawns because there is very little top soil. The soil that remains contains no organic material and is compacted so that it can't easily absorb water.
"A rain garden is a living system," Riggs said. "Pollutants are captured from the water and broken down in the soil, so that more and cleaner water is filtered into the ground."
Pollutants from suburban areas can include lawn fertilizers and pesticides, oil and other fluids that leak from cars, and harmful substances that wash off roofs and paved areas.