It was all about the environment late last month and early this month at the western waterfront as national storm water and rain garden expert Rusty Schmidt helped to construct a rain garden. Schmidt worked with the Town of Oyster Bay’s Environmental Resources and Parks staff along with partner agencies through a Long Island Sound Futures Fund grant on the project. Department of Environmental Resources Community Relations spokesperson Jaime Van Dyke was also involved in the project. Several civil engineers, master gardeners and local residents also came down to assist in the effort.
“It is kind of serendipity after (Superstorm) Sandy,” said Van Dyke. “The ultimate goal with these types of gardens is to filter storm water near the shore before it hits our streams and open harbors and inland we want to filter pollution before it hits our drinking water.”
Rain gardens, which let water flow through them and are concave as opposed to a standard convex garden, fall under the umbrella of green infrastructure, according to Van Dyke.
“They are in the same realm as permeable pavement, grass parking lots, pavers, green roofs, bioswales and other forms of green infrastructure,” she said.
Van Dyke helped build the first rain garden on Long Island at the Town of Oyster Bay Animal Shelter in Syosset in 2010. She has built several others since, including two at the Jericho Preserve and one in September at Town Farm in Oyster Bay Cove.
She collaborated with the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, National Soil Water Conservation District, Oyster Bay-Cold Spring Harbor Protection Committee, Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee and Sustainable Long Island on recent rain garden installation at the waterfront.
Schmidt, who hails from the Midwest, helped form multiple rain gardens in Oregon, Ohio, Minnesota and cities such as Kansas City and Seattle.
“These gardens are the best way to clean water,” said Schmidt. “Instead of going into storm drains, water soaks into these concave bowls into the ground two feet under the soil. They can be used to filter water from a house, driveway and in this case off of roads and sidewalks in the park.”
He said that after 20 years of instituting rain gardens throughout the country and making them the norm, he finds this a great opportunity to make them more prevalent on Long Island.
“Rain gardens are starting to come around and with advocates like Jaime I’m hoping to make them more prevalent here on Long Island. I want people to think that instead of just putting in a regular garden that maybe they can add a rain garden which is great for the environment. ”
Schmidt will be hosting several rain garden workshops at the waterfront this month. The workshops will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 12 from 7 to 9 p.m., Nov. 19 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. and Nov. 20 from 2 to 4 p.m. The cost is $10 for residents and municipal staff and $25 for landscape professionals.