Rain gardens and vegetated buffers are coming to Groton, Preston Ledyard, and Stonington to help protect the watershed and reduce flooding.
The Eastern Connecticut Conservation District, Inc., is working on a project to install vegetated buffers along waterfronts and rain gardens using native plants, said Maura Robie, the group’s natural resource specialist. Several have already been installed, with more being planned.
The nonprofit organization received in May an approximately $136,000 grant from the Long Island Sound Futures Fund for the project, Robie said.
The goal of the two-year project is to not only install 20 rain gardens, on properties from residential to commercial, and five vegetated buffers, but also to inspire residents and equip them with the tools they need to install their own, she said.
Robie said this type of green infrastructure provides benefits, including protecting water quality, helping to mitigate flooding, and helping to provide food and shelter for pollinator species.
“It’s a really great multiple purpose project so we’re actually getting a lot of great benefits,” Robie said.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines a rain garden as “a depressed area in the landscape that collects rain water from a roof, driveway or street and allows it to soak into the ground.”
Robie said the green infrastructure is the kind of solution that just about anybody can implement.
While towns and municipalities may tackle stormwater issues with larger, more expensive projects, the gardens and buffers offer a lower cost way to infiltrate stormwater runoff, reduce flooding and erosion, and recharge groundwater, she said.
“It’s a really nice way to just try to contain stormwater on site as we continue to have these more extreme weather events,” Robie said.
Robie said that the native plants that are used have adapted to the area’s weather patterns and soil so they require minimal care once they’re established, and the plants selected tend to be drought-resistant.
She explained that rain gardens need to be well-maintained for the first two years until they get established, and then should be fairly low maintenance.
The conservation district is working with local groups and conservation commissions to map out priority areas and hopes to use the Tri Town Trail in Preston, Ledyard and Groton as a guide for some of the locations.
The project also calls for “following the strategies of the ‘Pollinator Pathways Project,’ ” an established program focused on forming corridors of pollinator-friendly habitats and food sources for bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinating insects and wildlife, and building connections between properties using landscape techniques that will not be harmful to the declining pollinator populations,“ according to the conservation district.
One of the recent installations was a 140-square-foot rain garden at the Groton Housing Authority’s Pequot Village housing development. Volunteers, including members of the Electric Boat Management Association and the Groton Pollinator Pathways group, helped plant about 44 plants for the garden, Robie said.
The garden is within the Baker Cove Watershed, a small watershed in the City and Town of Groton that currently has poor water quality because of pollution by fecal coliform, said Robie, who also facilitates the Baker Cove Watershed Committee. The committee is working on a number of priorities from the Baker Cove Watershed Based Plan that include installing riparian buffers and rain gardens wherever possible, so the Eastern Connecticut Conservation District’s project helps that goal, she said.
Robie said the conservation district plans to share information with residents, including through workshops and brochures.
People interested in workshops or plantings can check the towns’ and cities’ websites and social media in the spring for more information.