Silver Chips Online

Blair's rain garden receives updates

County executive initiative prompts members of the DEP to plant native plants

By Aidan Keys, Staff Writer
October 30, 2014
On Oct. 23, Blair students and employees of the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection replanted and refurbished the Blair rain garden, located just outside of the front entrance of the building, as part of the Montgomery County Employee Giving Campaign, a county initiative to encourage executive agencies to participate in community service.
Brown and Levien's afternoon classes each helped plant native plants after volunteers from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) came to update the rain garden last Thursday. Sam Howells
Brown and Levien's afternoon classes each helped plant native plants after volunteers from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) came to update the rain garden last Thursday.

Blair's horticulture club created the rain garden to help prevent the deposition of polluted runoff rainwater into Sligo Creek, where it then flows into the Chesapeake Bay. The plants help slow and clean the water. "[The water] is cleaned by the roots and the soil through a natural cleaning process," horticulture club adviser Christopher Brown said. Volunteers, members of the horticulture club and other students came out to work in the rain garden to add more plant life after some of it had been worn away. "We didn't have enough plants to fill this area and things like that. So over time we've had these little bald spots," Brown said.

The horticulture club began the process of designing the rain garden three years ago in partnership with the Rainscapes Program, which promotes the construction of rain gardens in schools to educate students about how to manage storm water. Rainscapes coordinator Anne English reviewed plans for the garden and provided some of the materials over the year that it took for the club to design the rain garden with a landscape designer and apply for grants. "I approved it and helped work it through the MCPS bureaucracy. [Once the] Division of Construction approved it, we provided some of the site prep," English said. English also volunteered with the Blair rain garden as one of her department's community service projects. She did most of the coordinating in terms of working with Blair teachers and administrators.

Both the Rainscapes Program and the volunteer project provided the horticulture club with concrete, mulch and plants. English estimated that the value of these plants is around $500. All of the plants in the rain garden are native species. One of these plants is the host plant for Maryland's state butterfly. Each of the native plants helps the environment in natural habitats. "For the past three years, [horticulture club has] been trying to improve it and add plants that are going to help the ecosystems around here," Brown said.

The new plants promote butterfly life and bird protection. The swamp milkweed, for instance, is a native plant of the area that caters to the endangered Monarch butterflies by giving them a place for their young. Theoretically, Blair's own milkweed will increase the struggling Monarch population. All of the plants serve to soak up the runoff water that risks polluting the creek and the bay. "This is a plant community, we have lots of different types of plants," English said.

Bill Broglie, Chief Management of Services of the DEP and the coordinator of the DEP's Giving Campaign, hoped that the volunteer work will allow executives to give back to the community, and inspire students to look into environmental protection. "[I hope that] some of the students who will walk away from here and say, 'You know, that was a really cool thing that I got involved in, and that might be something that I want to do,' " he said.

http://silverchips.mbhs.edu/story/12695