Raingarden Action in Neighborhoods (RAIN) is a new community engagement program designed to meet the growing need for well-managed rain gardens that mitigate the impacts of climate change in cities. Nature such as parks, trees, and rain gardens can help cities adapt to threats from climate change (e.g. flooding, extreme heat) as well as provide other co-benefits such as reducing urban heat island effect, increasing human well-being, and more.
RAIN is designed to engage community members through in-class lessons as well as in-field practical training to build the skills and confidence necessary for participants to be able to assist with the management and promotion of rain gardens on public and private property.
Boston Pilot, Summer 2019
Our pilot program in summer 2019 will consist of 3 – 4 modules with in-class and in-field components. We envision 10 – 20 trainees at a time with half located at Franklin Park Zoo and the other half at a site in Dorchester’s Codman Square ecodistrict.
The Franklin Park Zoo program will coincide with the building of two rain gardens on zoo property. The training programs will be co-led with Zoo New England education staff with a group consisting of adults recruited from surrounding neighborhoods.
The other program will take place at Codman Square ecodistrict, developed with Codman Square NDC. The training and in-field will take place around the bioretention infrastructure to be built in spring along New England Avenue.
While the project is being piloted in Boston, there are plans for expansion nationwide where partners are requesting increased community participation in support of green infrastructure (GI). Our goals are to build the community level support and action necessary to create a robust network of rain gardens that help mitigate the effects of climate change and contribute to urban resilience.
- Build capacity and capability among community members to manage and monitor stormwater GI on both public and private lands.
- Support GI management and monitoring needs on public lands, as identified by local municipalities and managers.
- Encourage and promote successful installation and management of GI on public and private lands.
- Support partner organizations in accessing and delivering GI training.
Challenges to Green Infrastructure
Beyond the initial installation costs, GI requires significant management to ensure benefits continue over time. Without this oversight, GI degradation can risk public well-being. Municipalities often lack the resources and are turning to partners and communities to help. Those planning and developing GI have identified building community capacity as a critical step in fulfilling the promise of GI in helping communities adapt to the threats of climate change and storms.
Changing human attitudes and behavior is also challenging, and research shows that there are several social barriers to the adoption of new GI in residential areas. We know that simply providing information through trainings about the benefits of change and how to install GI will likely be insufficient to lead to behavior change.
To achieve adoption by community members, we have identified specific hands-on community science activities that create a deeper connection about how community practices can improve the functioning of GI. We are also using evaluation to adapt the program toward the goals of building a community supportive of GI.