New rain garden under construction at Harwood Union

  • Published in Schools

Harwood Union Middle and High School is scheduled to break ground Thursday on a 1,400-square-foot bioretention facility (“rain garden”) that will infiltrate runoff from approximately a half acre of school rooftop, reducing the volume of stormwater runoff that reaches Lozelle Brook.

Last year, Harwood Union and Friends of the Mad River (FMR), with expertise from Watershed Consulting Associates, LLC, completed a study of the water runoff from the campus’ 9 acres of impervious roofs and parking lots and engineered solutions that reduce the negative impact on the brook and on downstream communities. The 2015-16 “stormwater master planning” process recommended this large rain garden, among other projects, and an Ecosystem Restoration grant from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Clean Water Initiative has now funded its construction.

“Thanks to the school’s dedication, the campus is one big step closer to sustainability,” said Friends of the Mad River executive director Corrie Miller.

“At Harwood Union we have been concerned with the impacts of the campus on the brook. However, without adequate funding to address the issue it has been on the back burner,” Ray Daigle, Harwood Unified Union director of facilities and operations, noted. “I’m pleased the state is helping us incorporate green stormwater infrastructure that brings our facility more in line with best practices for stormwater mitigation.”

“As part of our Ridge to River initiative, FMR is working with people across the watershed to minimize stormwater runoff,” Miller, pointed out. “If we work together to slow runoff down and sink it into the ground, we all benefit from clean water and less damaging flooding. Harwood Union has been a great partner in this effort and we’re excited to see them model good watershed stewardship with their students.”

The rain garden is outside the middle school science classrooms and will serve as an outdoor classroom with water quality test holes, native shrubs and grasses to be maintained, a boardwalk and classroom seating.

“The rain garden is the result of commitment, time and effort from a lot of people – this is a school-community partnership at its best,” said Angela Selvaggio, a seventh-grade science teacher. Students will have access to authentic green stormwater infrastructure that will serve as a science-based learning tool. The rain garden will support curriculum on a diversity of topics, ranging from watershed healthy to interrelationships and interdependencies within an ecosystem. Selvaggio added, “Having opportunities to actively take care of the rain garden will help give students a sense of stewardship and pride in our community's watershed."

 

Several other “best management practices” (BMPs) were engineered that await funding and appropriate timing. Two large arrays of under-parking-lot water storage chambers will filter and hold the water after a storm event and release it slowly into the brook, reducing flash-flooding downstream and serving as an irrigation tank for the high school’s sports fields. These installations are on hold because they must be timed with repaving the school’s large L-shaped parking lot.

Together, the BMPs will dramatically reduce runoff volume and pollutant load, improving water quality and reducing downstream flooding, and help Harwood meet impending permit requirements called for by Vermont’s 2015 Water Quality Act.

“We understand that in the next few years the regulations around stormwater runoff will only get more stringent and this opportunity to work with the Friends of the Mad River on this issue is in the best interest of the school and community,” Daigle added.

Miller thanked Kingsbury Construction, who is constructing the rain garden; Watershed Consulting Associates, who is providing design support; Broadleaf Landscape Architecture, Mad River Property Management and Vermont Wetland Plant Supply, who are donating plant material; and Jeannie Sargent, an FMR board member, who is volunteering her landscaping design expertise.

For more information about Friends of the Mad River, visit www.FriendsoftheMadRiver.org.