Note to Reader:
Inspired by a ground-breaking campaign to install 12,000 rain gardens in the Seattle/Puget Sound region of Washington State, a multi-partner initiative is now underway in British Columbia to build support for a similar rain garden vision in the Metro Vancouver region.
Leadership for the initiative is being provided by Dr. Joanna Ashworth of Simon Fraser University’s Faculty of Environment’s Pacific Water Research Centre. Dr. Ashworth is a research associate in the Centre and is the director of the professional development program in the Faculty of Environment. Her area of research at Simon Fraser University is at the intersection of communication, community development and sustainability.
The Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia is a contributing partner because the journey to a water-resilient future in the urban environment starts with a sustaining commitment by local governments to implement a rain garden program. A desired outcome is that property owners would understand their relationship to the watershed.
BENEFITS: Influence behaviour. Slow, spread and sink rainwater runoff. Restore the water balance. Adapt to a changing climate. Prevent flooding. Avoid an unfunded liability.
Imagine 12,000 Rain Gardens
As a region such as Metro Vancouver grows, native forests are replaced with roads, parking lots and other hard surfaces. It took decades of urbanization to cause the progressive decline of creeks on the North Shore.
Restoring stream health will rely upon a sustained commitment, extending over decades, by local governments and the community at large. Doing business differently starts with a rain garden program, one that is founded on a stewardship ethic and helps to restore watershed function.
What is “12,000 Rain Gardens”?
“On the North Shore, we can learn from the experience in the Puget Sound region and from the green infrastructure initiatives that are taking place at the municipal level,” states Dr. Joanna Ashworth.
“12,000 Rain Gardens is a bottom-up program led by Washington State University and Stewardship Partners, a not-for-profit group. In 2011, they initiated a community-based campaign to install 12,000 rain gardens in the Seattle/Puget Sound Region by 2016.
“12,000 Rain Gardens is an effective blend of regionally coordinated but locally driven efforts. The campaign has played a major role in taking the rain garden concept from obscure to commonplace, and from outlier to mainstream, in terms of rainwater management strategies.
“12,000 Rain Gardens is based on the premise that communities, with the support of local government, universities and a not-for-profit secretariat, are capable of contributing to a green infrastructure system regionally that can save municipal governments money and protect water quality for ecosystems and species habitat.
“On June 27, SFU’s Water Research Centre and our partners are hosting a community meeting. We will explore what it would take to build 12,000 rain gardens on the North Shore. We have invited environmental scientist Aaron Clark, PhD, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Stewardship Partners to share his experience.”
A Puget Sound Perspective:
“Rain gardens are often thought of as just a homeowner tool, but the exact same concept of soils and plants capturing and filtering the rain (just like a forest does) transcends just residential to industrial, commercial, but also rural landscapes. I often say that every rain garden dreams of becoming an evergreen forest when it grows up,” states Dr. Aaron Clark, Director of Strategic Partnerships with Puget Sound-based stewardshippartners.org.
Engaging the North Shore Community
“On June 27 we will showcase our vision for an initiative that we call Engaging the Community to Build Flood Resistant Rain Gardens,” continues Joanna Ashworth.
“While a number of BC municipalities have been creating rain gardens as part of their green infrastructure development, this project is unique in its focus on engaging and empowering the community in a comprehensive vision and plan aimed at restoring the water balance through rainwater management and community stewardship.
“This project would mobilize technical and ecological knowledge of rain gardens so that citizens, elementary and secondary school students, stewardship groups, and governments are aware of the benefits of rain gardens, learn how to access information and resources to assist in their design and construction, and engage with others in planning, installation and maintenance of these green infrastructure resources.
“The project would benefit the community by building connections between and among neighbours, citizens, community organizations, schools, and local government,” concludes Joanna Ashworth.