Turning Soggy Ground into a Rain Garden

aerial shot with the park outline
An outline of where the rain garden will be.
The marshy area before the park
The wet area where a green infrastructure system will capture and filter stormwater.

During her daily commute to campus last year, Christine Hatch, extension associate professor of geosciences, noticed a giant pool of water in and around Lot 52, the former Hills Hall site. Eventually wetland plants popped up in the soggy ground. At the time, Hatch was a Sustainability Curriculum Fellow, and with sustainability on her mind, she soon came up with what would become the Rain Garden 52 project – the creation of a green infrastructure system, researched and designed by students, that will capture and filter stormwater while enhancing campus aesthetics by harnessing the beauty of a natural wetland.

Hatch and Mark Hamin, senior lecturer of landscape architecture and regional planning (LARP), developed a Sustainability, Innovation and Engagement (SIEF) project strategy that would cover site analysis, assessment and potential remediation to manage stormwater runoff. The project received a $2,500 grant. Mike Davidsohn, another LARP senior lecturer, also joined the interdisciplinary team.

As a one-credit independent study course, the Rain Garden 52 project is serving asa meaningful educational experience for landscape architecture studentsRebecca Schaefer, Wilson Darlin, Sophie Martin and Alexis Monti.They are currently surveying the student and broader campus community to see who would use a space like this, what for and what they would like to see as part of it. You can take the survey here.

Senior LARP student Wilson Darbin sees the projectas an opportunity to use all the professional muscles – both literal and intellectual – he has strengthened during his time at UMass. “This project seemed like an appropriate way to utilize all the skills I've gained, as well as share my experiences with students outside of my major who are interested in landscape design and planning. I’m excited about the project and using all my skills.”

The group is in the first phase of the project, site assessment. Next, they will establish a studio design course for students interested in designing the rain garden park. The design will be submitted to campus facilities, as well as to the Campus Resiliency Task Force, a group working on ways, like this “green design” project, to filter and slow stormwater on campus before it reaches treatment facilities. If the final design is approved, the team of students and faculty will begin building the 1.5-acre park.

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of items about the latest “green idea” projects around campus to receive grants from the Sustainability, Innovation and Engagement Fund (SIEF). Launched in 2013, the SIEF program aims to foster sustainability by financially supporting students, faculty and staff who propose projects to promote a greener campus.