Rain gardens act as sponges for runoff

Grady Wimble, Eammon Flynn and Couper Shaw relax above the rain garden outside Glenbrook Gym.
Sara Novenstern / Castleton Spartan

It’s the time of year again when flooding and erosion become an issue in many areas where runoff collects. But for Castleton College this ongoing problem has been solved.      

In three separate locations around campus, you will notice rocks that surround something resembling a garden. They aren’t just any normal gardens, however, they’re called rain gardens and the purpose they serve is much greater than simply giving people something nice to look at.

“They are like a big sponge that stops water flow, and that water flow could be detrimental to the environment,” said Ann Honan, anatomy and physiology professor.   

Honan teaches a Sustainable Landscape course in the summer and this was one of the big projects the class worked on this past summer. Students who participate in the course are part of the college’s Upward Bound program, which is designed for college bound high school students in Rutland County.

Although one of the biggest goals of a project like is to protect the environment, it’s not the only purpose Honan said.

“It’s a way to educate people about how to solve a problem. We choose projects that are visible, feasible and they can engage the community,” she said.

The gardens are located beside Jeffords Center and on the frequently walked path from Glenbrook Gym to Huden Dining Hall. The third, which was not built by Upward Bound students, is located beside the Coffee Cottage.

The locations were chosen and carefully placed where runoff seemed to be creating concern. Rain gardens are meant to capture rainwater runoff and potentially harmful pollutants from runoff sources like pathways or buildings, and prevent it from getting into the water system.

One of the most noticeable locations was the path outside of Glenbrook. Students constantly use the path when walking to other locations and eventually it got so muddy it was impossible to use. However, Honan said the students weren’t the issue.  

“That problem was water runoff, it’s not because the students walked through there. Water can move soil faster than people’s feet,” she said.

Students may not understand exactly what the gardens are for, but they have noticed them.

“Before someone told me, I had no idea what it was. But it does look cool with the way the rocks are formed around it,” sophomore Alex Madsen said.

She also said the path is a lot clearer now as compared to the muddy mess it was last year.

Others agreed.

“The changes they made to the path not only help with the muddiness and added to the hill of grass, but it’s also nice because I think it motivates students to use the path more,” senior Meghan O’Sullivan said.

Ultimately, the goal is to eventually put a bench near the garden with some specific information about rain gardens.  

“We envision more to be done there. That project is not done yet,” Honan said.


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