Rain gardens help clean creeks

May 25, 2009|By JANET HEIM

Watershed association welcomes help of stay-at-home mom

WASHINGTON County -- Mount Aetna Adventist Elementary School in Hagerstown and Greenbrier Elementary School in Boonsboro have received grants from the Chesapeake Bay Trust to construct schoolyard rain gardens.

The rain gardens are intended to help provide proper drainage and filtration of water by purging chemicals and other contaminants before they enter area waterways and eventually the Chesapeake Bay, according to prepared information.

The funds will cover professional development for teachers, student training materials, construction costs, soil amendments and replacement of native plants.

Susan Simonson, a Beaver Creek Watershed Association (BCWA) member who has been coordinating the project, said a lot of people don't realize that they live in a watershed area. She said Greenbrier runoff feeds into Little Beaver Creek, while runoff from Mount Aetna School feeds directly into Beaver Creek.


BCWA hired the Center for Watershed Protection in Ellicott City, Md., to complete a watershed assessment. The rain garden projects are among many identified in the study.

The rain gardens will allow storm water to drain into the ground within a couple of days, watering the plants instead of quickly running into the creek.

Greenbrier received $4,000 for its rain garden project. There, fourth-grade students were chosen to work on the project because it tied in with their curriculum. The students spent a day at Claud Kitchens Outdoor School at Fairview, where they learned about runoff and watershed areas.

After excavation of the garden area was complete, the students got to assist in a partial planting on May 1. Teacher Kris Shumaker is the Greenbrier representative on the project.

Prior to the creation of the Greenbrier rain garden, areas of the playground were being eroded by parking lot runoff, Simonson said.

Mount Aetna's grant for a smaller project was about $3,000. Students in grades four through eight helped plant Mount Aetna's rain garden on May 15. Parent and BCWA board member Laura Zimmermann is the school representative.

At Mount Aetna, the rooftops drain to a single discharge point. A rain garden at the school, in addition to beautifying the area, will help prevent soil erosion, said Simonson, who has a master's degree in environmental biology from Hood College.

BCWA funded the site surveys, the designs done by Frederick Siebert & Associates Inc., plants and the oversight of the projects. It also paid for a member of the Potomac Valley Audubon Society to present an educational program for Mount Aetna students.

Washington County Public Schools paid for grass seed and sod, as well as transportation and a day of education at Fairview for Greenbrier fourth-graders.

More information about the Beaver Creek Watershed Association can be obtained by sending e-mail to Doug Hutzell at More information about rain gardens can be found at

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