Getting Out of the Gutter: A Rain Garden at Pulaski Park
Pulaski Park, in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood, has a long history of community participation. The park field house, built in 1914, now plays host to neighborhood classes and fitness programs, local crafts fairs, a theater group and a sword-fighting club, and a legendary Haunted House. Now Pulaski Park is serving the community in a new way- by demonstrating green technologies and how communities can get involved.
On Saturday October 18th, a group of 40 volunteer engineers and 30 local students from Kelly High School built a rain garden at the Pulaski Park pool house. The rain garden event was organized by CNT in collaboration with the Water Environment Federation (WEF) Students and Young Professionals Committee and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRDGC) as part of the 2008 WEF Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFtec). The garden is 250 square feet and contains 250 native Illinois prairie and woodland plants. In addition to soil conditioning and planting, the event included a “hose-cutting” ceremony with media and Chicago dignitaries, demonstrations of disconnecting a downspout and installing rain barrels, a working model of a wastewater treatment facility, and sessions on the importance of preserving water quality through community action.The rain garden and disconnected downspout are located next to the Pulaski Park pool house. This area abuts the heavily used children’s pool and a new playground to be installed this fall. The rain garden will provide a beautiful landscape feature for the community and educational signage will further the outreach and impact of the demonstration garden. The substantial runoff from the pool house roof now frequently overwhelms the gutter and downspout; by disconnecting the downspout the rain garden helps to relieve that pressure while absorbing that water into the ground rather than dumping it into the sewer. “Getting out of the gutter” is a new theme for CNT’s green infrastructure core belief: that rain water is an asset not a waste product, and by infiltrating that water into the ground we can significantly reduce the threat of flooding as well as the pollution destroying our streams, rivers, and lakes.
(Photo rendering by Lynda Wallis, Freelance Illustrations)