Ready for rain
Chesapeake City Elementary unveils rain garden
— Clear skies greeted students as they filed out of Chesapeake City Elementary School into the June heat on Wednesday, taking a seat on the asphalt near the playground.
The blue sky was a welcome reprieve from the re-
cent rain, and the blacktop gave no sign of last week’s deluge, something that was only possible because of one thing: the school’s new rain garden.
“Right now, you’d be sitting in water,” Dave Hastings, the school’s assistant principal, told the students. “With all the rain we had last week, this would be water and you would be sitting in it if we had this assembly a year ago.”
Though the rain garden was officially dedicated on
Wednesday, it was originally installed in October thanks to a partnership among the school, the county, area businesses and members of the Watershed Stewards Academy, a program that works to educate and empower residents to improve the water quality of local streams and reduce the harmful effects of polluted stormwater runoff.
Funded in part by a $2,218 grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust, the rain garden is designed to improve filtration and reduce the amount of sediment and polluted stormwater runoff that flows into the Chesapeake City Basin and the Bohemia River. The garden will also address a longstanding drainage issue at the school.
Chuck Foster, a WSA member who along with Joe Kline and Joanna Healey installed the project as part of their capstone project, spoke at the dedication and explained to the students how the rain garden works.
To create the rain garden, community volunteers had some help from excavators to dig a trench that was 80feet long, 5-feet wide and 3-feet deep, Foster said. The bottom was filled with rocks and a length of perforated pipe. On top of that are layers of pea gravel, dirt and mulch. Students finished off the garden by planting more than 400 native plants in the garden.
Foster also explained to students that while it’s OK to call it a rain garden, there’s also a fancier name for the project.
“We could call it a rain garden, but micro-bioretention is more fun to say,” Foster said, drawing laughter as he slowly stretched out the technical term.
Many of the students may have already been familiar with how the rain garden works. The school has been incorporating lessons about the rain garden into its curriculum and during the dedication, third-grade students talked about how their class investigated what types of soil absorb water best. Other students also shared their experience helping build the rain garden and thanked everyone who had come together to make it possible.
Following the ceremonial ribbon cutting, Hastings and Foster brought out their guitars to play “Slow It Down,” a song Foster wrote about watersheds. As the two played, students who had helped with the original installation of the garden came forward to plant a few final native plants.
Though the garden has been in place for many months now, Foster said after the ceremony that it still felt good to officially dedicate the rain garden. The CCES rain garden was the first major in-ground project for Friends of the Bohemia, an organization that advocates for and raises awareness about the condition of the Bohemia River. Foster serves as the organization’s president and said the group has a lot more planned in the upcoming months.
Many of those plans will start to be formulated at 6 p.m. Monday at the Chesapeake City Branch Library with the release of a watershed assessment of the Bohemia River, Lower Elk and Back Creek that the county commissioned last year. That study will help the organization figure out where best to focus its efforts going for- ward, Foster said.
But regardless of the results of the study, Foster said talking to kids, like those at Chesapeake City Elementary School, and the community about the watershed will remain a top priority for Friends of the Bohemia.
“We want to make connections with our community and how do we do that? Kids are an ideal route into the community,” he said. “If we can reach them young, they’re the future.”
Joanna Healey, a Watershed Stewards Academy graduate who helped lead the installation of a rain garden at Chesapeake City Elementary School, instructs students on where to plant native plants.
Chuck Foster, president of Friends of the Bohemia, speaks to Chesapeake City Elementary School students during the dedication of the school’s rain garden.
Chesapeake City Elementary School students perform a song during the school’s rain garden dedication.
Chesapeake City Elementary School principal Alan Loman and Alan McCarthy, Cecil County Council vice president, cut the ribbon for the school’s rain garden.
A member of the Cecil County Sheriff’s office uses his patrol car to help anchor crime scene tape at West End Gardens Thursday afternoon, where Elkton Police investigated one of two shootings.