Rain gardens to reduce flooding in Dover Plains

Housatonic Valley Association’s Ten Mile River Watershed Manager, Claire Wegh, stands next to the newly installed rain gardens in Dover Plains.

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Rain gardens to reduce flooding in Dover Plains

DOVER PLAINS — When it rains these days, it often pours. And all that runoff from impervious surfaces such as roofs, parking lots, roads and driveways has to go somewhere.

All too often, that flooding ends up in lakes, streams or ponds, along with pollutants collected along the way.

To prevent this from happening, the Cornwall, Conn.-based Housatonic Valley Association recently teamed up with a Dover Plains business owner and other partners to celebrate the installation of two rain gardens aimed at reducing pollution entering Wells Brook, a tributary to the Ten Mile River and a significant warm-weather refuge for native fish.

The June 7 ribbon-cutting ceremony took place at the Dover Plains McDonald’s, where owner and operator Victor Wong thanked HVA’s Ten Mile River Watershed Manager, Claire Wegh, for explaining why the streams surrounding his business are vital, in part because the carry water from Dover to Long Island Sound.

Also at the site, HVA installed interpretive signs in both English and Spanish describing the ecological diversity and importance of Wells Brook as well as the function of rain gardens and how they benefit local wildlife and communities.

“Providing an opportunity for environmental education in a diverse rural community like Dover Plains, in a spot as heavily trafficked as a McDonald’s, is an exciting example of what equitable environmental education can look like,” Wagh explained to those in attendance.

The rain gardens, which are shallow depressions in the landscape and include native plants beneficial to pollinators, filter stormwater runoff from Route 22, as well as from the McDonald’s parking lot and roof, before it reaches Wells Brook, ultimately reducing flooding and improving water quality by removing pollutants.

This type of runoff has been cited by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a major source of pollution to the nation’s waterways.

The rain gardens, which are prime examples of green infrastructure, were designed and built by Earth Tones Native Plant Nursery of Woodbury, Conn., with funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Long Island Sound Futures Fund and Iroquois Gas Transmission Systems, and in partnership with McDonald’s and J.C. Wong Management.

During the unveiling ceremony, attendees were invited to tour the streambanks and learn how rain gardens protect rivers for the benefit of not only the environment, but also wildlife and humans.

The Dover Plains rain gardens are one of many projects HVA and its conservation partners are collaborating on across the Housatonic River watershed as part of its Clean, Cold and Connected Initiative. The program works to protect streams like Wells Brook, restore fish and wildlife habitat and provide opportunities for people to learn about and enjoy the rich, natural heritage of the Housatonic River.

According to the University of Connecticut NEMO (Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials) Program, which was created in the early 1990s to provide information, education and assistance to local land use board and commissions on how they can accommodate growth while protecting their natural resources and community character, building a rain garden at residences can also reduce the amount of pollutants that leave yards and enter nearby lakes, streams and ponds.

The NEMO Program offers a rain garden app for designing, installing and maintaining rain gardens. To learn more, visit https://nemo.uconn.edu/raingardens

For more information on the conservation and education projects underway at Housatonic Valley Association (HVA), the only conservation organization dedicated to the entire tri-state Housatonic Watershed which acts to protect the natural character and environmental health of the region from the Berkshires to Long Island Sound, visit www.hvatoday.org

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