Bay City Rain Garden

During the last week of June and the first of July, eight Tillamook County OSU Master Gardeners and other volunteers pitched in to complete the last of three demonstration rain gardens in Tillamook County. This last rain garden was installed in Bay City near the intersection of 7th and Main.  Other gardens have been installed in Pacific City and downtown Tillamook at Hoquarton Slough Park.

Mick Dressler and Gary Albright dig into the Bay City rain garden site, June 29th. Photo by R. Emanuel.

Mick Dressler and Gary Albright dig into the Bay City rain garden site, June 29th. Photo by R. Emanuel.

A rain garden is a sunken garden bed that collects and treats stormwater runoff from rooftops, driveways, sidewalks, parking lots and streets.  Rain gardens work like a native forest, meadow or prairie by capturing and infiltrating stormwater from rooftops, driveways, and other hard surfaces.  They can be planted with attractive native and horticultural varieties of perennials, grasses, sedges, shrubs and trees.

Rain gardens are a great way to add beautiful landscaping to your yard as well as protect our overloaded urban stormwater system and precious water resources!  Why are rain gardens so important?  When the Pacific Northwest was covered with forests and prairies, rainfall dripped through branches and vegetation, seeped through duff, and sank into underground aquifers as it slowly flowed to nearby water bodies. As our landscapes become developed, the rainfall that lands on hard surfaces drains to pipes, ditches, and storm drains and is routed directly to streams or into the sewer system.  Water that once took days, weeks or months to reach a stream now gets there in a matter of minutes. The result is too much water all at once. As a large pulse of fast-moving water flows down the stream system, it scours and erodes the stream bed, moves gravel downstream and degrades habitat for life in the stream.  In addition, the runoff picks up pollutants like chemicals, fertilizers, and oil from parking lots, and in some places, carries it straight to streams without being treated. Too much water arriving in a short amount of time and carrying pollutants negatively affects the health of our streams, lakes and estuaries. Rain gardens help restore the natural flow and treatment of water in the landscape which is critical to ensure healthy streams, even in towns.

A backhoe makes easy work of the site, digging out our ponding basin. Photo: R. Emanuel, OSU.

A backhoe makes easy work of the site, digging out our ponding basin. Photo: R. Emanuel, OSU.

Tillamook County OSU Master Gardeners Andrea and Larry Goss, Chris Bolger, Phyllis Holmes, Carla Albright, Kathie Reames, and Evelyn VonFeldt, plus Gary Albright and Mick Dressler pitched in for three days of hard work. The volunteers began by installing silt fence to keep sediment out of nearby Patterson Creek, and then watched as a skillful backhoe operator from Bay City let his machine do most of the digging.

Volunteers Gary and Carla Albright, Chris Bolger, and Kathie Reames plant in the rain garden. Photo: R. Emanuel, OSU.

Volunteers Gary and Carla Albright, Chris Bolger, and Kathie Reames plant in the rain garden. Photo: R. Emanuel, OSU.

Once the main basin of the rain garden was dug, volunteers set to work grading the ponding surface, constructing berms, placing rocks and mulching.  Together, they planted more than 100 native and non-invasive grasses, sedges and sedums around the garden.  While the weather was unusually warm, everything has survived their initial transplant into the new garden. On the final day of work, several volunteers drove down to Tillamook Bay where they selected a spectacular piece of driftwood to finish the garden.

Proud volunteers (Chris Bolger, Larry Goss, Andrea Goss and Mick Dressler) standing behind their newly constructed rain garden in Bay City, OR on July 1, 2009. Photo by R. Emanuel, OSU.

Proud volunteers (Chris Bolger, Larry Goss, Andrea Goss and Mick Dressler) standing behind their newly constructed rain garden in Bay City, OR on July 1, 2009. Photo by R. Emanuel, OSU.

The Bay City rain garden represents the culmination of three years of research and development around North coast appropriate stormwater management by local water resources and community development faculty Robert Emanuel. It also marks the last of three major demonstration projects funded by Oregon Sea Grant.  Now it’s up to community members around Tillamook County to try out these attractive options on their own residential and commercial properties. This winter, OSU will publish the Oregon Rain Gardens Guide to help coastal residents and others around the state to assess, design and install the gardens themselves.  Contact the OSU Extension Service Tillamook County for more information.

If you would like more information on rain gardens, Ecoroofs, pervious pavers and other green stormwater management techniques, be sure to attend the free video tour “Stormwater Management: One Back Yard at a Time” hosted at the OSU Extension Service office on September 15 from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM.  I will be on hand afterwards to answer questions and talk about how rain gardens and other stormwater solutions work on in Tillamook County.

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