Next time you are driving east on Hwy 13 towards I-35 in Savage, look to your right. You can’t miss a beautiful new garden at Unity of the Valley Spiritual Center. This is not just any garden, it is a raingarden planted with love by volunteers to help filter storm water and add beauty to their landscape.
Mary Schulz, a member of Unity of the Valley, initiated the project. In 2012, Mary and her husband Michael installed a raingarden in their backyard with help from the Scott Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). They live close to Credit River and it was important to them to filter the storm water running through their backyard before it made its way into Credit River.
Mary has since joined the volunteer garden committee at Unity of the Valley. She was put in charge of the garden under the sign for the spiritual center. The garden that was in place was in need of an update, and Mary thought back to the success of her raingarden. She knew there were benefits to the raingarden beyond its beauty.
When it rains, much of the rainwater falls on roofs, driveways, and roads and begins flowing rapidly along the landscape. This storm water picks up dirt and other pollutants as it flows, eventually making its way to a storm drain which is piped directly into the nearest lake or river. Raingardens are designed to catch storm water so it can slowly infiltrate into the ground instead. This filters the pollutants out of the water, slows down the storm water so fewer pollutants are picked up, and less storm water enters local waterbodies. Plus, the raingarden’s native plants provide food and habitat for birds and bees.
Mary called the Scott SWCD to see if there was assistance available to help make their vision become reality. Working with the Scott SWCD, Unity of the Valley applied for a $750 incentive to put in the raingarden, plus received free technical assistance to help with its design and construction. The City of Savage offers an additional $250 for raingardens installed in the city, bringing their total incentive amount to $1,000. Together with the incentives and the labor of Unity of the Valley members, the raingarden was installed at no cost to the spiritual center.
Meghan Darley, Resource Conservation Technician with the Scott SWCD, assisted Unity of the Valley along every step of the way, from designing the raingarden to completing paperwork for the incentive. It was large project for them to take on, but Mary said that “Meghan was very helpful and had my back to make sure the project was a success.” Jesse Carlson, City of Savage Water Resources Engineer, also came out to check on the raingarden project before it was installed.
Mary was not alone in making the raingarden a success. She got support right away from members of Unity of the Valley, and many of them volunteered to help with various aspects of putting in the raingarden including: removing the sod, digging the depression, adding compost and mulch, and planting native plants.
When asked about her thoughts on the raingarden Mary replied, “the raingarden turned out fantastic.” The raingarden at Unity of the Valley truly was a community effort. After the raingarden was finished, Unity of the Valley held a dedication service where members of the congregation gathered around the raingarden to pray over the garden and dedicate it to their community.
Once the raingarden was in place, they did not have to wait long to watch it in action. “There were heavy rains last spring, so soon after it was installed we watch it fill up with rain then slowly filter into the ground.” The raingarden was planted last spring, and the congregation is looking forward to even more color and beautify from the raingarden as it becomes established in its second year.
Planting a raingarden was a great additional the spiritual center’s landscape because the benefits of a raingarden keep with the beliefs and principles of Unity of the Valley. “The Unity movement is guided by a vision of sacredness and the inter-connectedness of all life. It is a journey of spiritual relationships with Earth and its creatures. All faiths are welcome at Unity of the Valley to view the raingarden or to attend a service.”
If you are thinking about doing your part for water quality by planting a raingarden, now is the time to start planning. The Scott SWCD can help you design the raingarden, talk to you about which native plants to choose, and get you signed up for an incentive program. The process is easy, just call the Scott SWCD office at 952-492-5425 to get started.