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 consisted of 4 modules with in-class and in-field components. Half of the participants were at Franklin Park Zoo and the other half at a site in Dorchester’s Codman Square ecodistrict.
The Franklin Park Zoo program coincided with the building of two rain gardens on zoo property. The training programs were co-led with Zoo New England education staff with a group consisting of adults recruited from surrounding neighborhoods. The other program was held at Codman Square ecodistrict, developed with Codman Square NDC. The training and in-field as held around the bioretention infrastructure to be built in spring along New England Avenue.
This hands-on experience helped participants feel more connected to and have a greater understanding of the environmental issues in their own backyard and better understand how you can make a difference. Take action at the local level and strive towards a more sustainable future!
Throughout our workshop, we discussed:
- How water impacts your community
- The benefits of Green Infrastructure
- How to spot problem areas in your yard and neighborhood
- Actionable steps to take to make a difference
While the project is being piloted in Boston, there are plans for expansion nationwide where partners are requesting increased community participation in support of 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.
Rain Garden Resources
- Three Rivers Rain Garden Alliance: Garden Calculator
- City of Durham, North Carolina: Steps to Building a Rain Garden
- University of New Hampshire: Rain Garden Resources
- Soak up in the Rain New Hampshire: Rain Garden Planning
- Rain Gardens: A Design Guide for Connecticut & New England Homeowners
- “How to make a rain garden” (featuring our Director, Mark Chandler!)
- Massachusetts Master Gardener Association
- Boston Water and Sewer Commission: Rainfall & Garden
Normally, when it rains, water is absorbed by soil. Some of it is used by plants and some of it trickles down into underground aquafers. But when rain falls in cities, it’s usually met by impenetrable layers of asphalt and concrete. Instead of being absorbed where it fell, it- along with any pollution it picks up- is sent straight to the ocean through storm drains. This can cause many problems for cities, including erosion, water pollution, flooding, and diminished groundwater.
Raingardens are a type of green infrastructure designed to reduce or eliminate these issues. Raingardens are depressed areas that allow water runoff from parking lots and sidewalks to drain. The gardens are filled with wetland vegetation, like ferns and shrubs, whose roots allow water to drain into the ground.
Raingardens help restore the water cycle to urban landscapes, and can help reduce the threat of floods due to climate change!
- 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.
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.