Gardens at Justice Center (video)

Published 7:49 am Thursday, October 21, 2010

Eighth-grader Maija Cluever is busy pouring soil on top of prairie grass. Several Pacelli Middle School classes plant a rain garden as a community service lesson Tuesday.

If the recent flooding has taught Austin anything, it’s that Austin needs to come together to make sure rain stays where it falls, according to Jim Stiles, the event coordinator for the Cedar River Watershed District.

That’s why he coordinated the recent rain garden plantings at Mill Pond and in the Plaza Lot.

“The main goal in this is to help educate everybody about the importance of keeping rainfall where it falls,” Stiles said.

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Stiles helped several Pacelli Middle School classes put in native prairie plants in a rain garden Wednesday morning at the Plaza Lot near the Mower County Jail and Justice Center. Pacelli students put in about 540 plants in a 30 ft. by 40 ft. plot of land.

Rain gardens are designed to soak up as much rainfall as possible and as a result they’re usually put in on slanting land. The plants embedded in the Plaza Lot will have roots as far down as 20 ft., which will help soak up even more rainwater.

Seventh-grader Tatyana Beck gets ready to plant prairie grass near the Mower County Jail and Justice Center Tuesday. Several Pacelli Middle School classes plant a rain garden as a community service lesson.

“I love the prairie,” said Jeannie Bambrick, one of Pacelli’s middle school advisers. According to Bambrick, Stiles had contacted Pacelli only a short bit ago about helping to put in the rain garden. School officials jumped at the chance to educate students about rainfall and earth science.

“I thought it would be a really good service-learning project,” Bambrick said.

Although there aren’t plans to expand the current rain garden at the Plaza Lot, it will start to bloom next summer, providing a reminder to residents to learn more about water conservation.

“These systems work,” Stiles said. “It helps the watershed and it helps to educate the people.”