Building Community with Rain Gardens

TriCycle Rain GardenThe Illinois River Watershed Partnership and Beaver Watershed Alliance are working diligently to get the last few scheduled rain gardens in the ground before tucking away for the winter.  Fall is creeping up on us fast in Arkansas, and we still have a few rain gardens to install before winter sets in so we have been very busy, doing as much outreach and planting as possible in our local watersheds.

Recently, I was able to spend a day with some very close friends, installing rain gardens at two locations that are very special to me, and many of the folks I know.  For the last two years, I have been a volunteer at a local community garden, Tri Cycle Farms.  Though, I have admittedly had less time to volunteer than I would like, while completing my service term with Energy Corps and being a student, this farm is truly a special place to me and to our community, here in Fayetteville, AR.

When I started this service term, helping public places in our two watersheds receive grant money to build rain gardens on their property, the first place I thought of that I would love to see one be installed was Tri Cycle Farms.  With a little work and community discussion, Tri Cycle Farms decided they would apply for the grant and were approved.  But not only Tri Cycle wanted to apply; their community church did as well.  See, Tri Cycle is not a space that is necessarily confineable by property lines.  Their kindness and welcoming have extended throughout our community with food offerings, friendship and fun.  One of the places that had received a lot of the harvest from Tri Cycle was a church across the street, the Trinity United Methodist Church, where many of the volunteers from Tri Cycle, including myself, have spent many hours working in the kitchen there, to cook community meals every third Sunday.  Tri Cycle and Trinity had partnered on projects of food, community and even gardening and landscaping on the Trinity property, where Farmer Don, of Tri Cycle, had become the groundskeeper.

Rain Garden InstallationLong story short, the two properties ended up being awarded a shared grant, keeping in the spirit of their partnerships, and they were ecstatic.  On planting day, we arrived early, where the church rain garden was going to be planted, and there were already many people present.  Terry, the pastor at Trinity was already there and  rows of fold out chair seating sat in the grass in front of the garden.  People trickled in a little at a time and finally it was time to get started.  The rows of chairs were full of people and there were many people standing as well.  Terry gave an amazing service, discussing how love, community, acceptance and understanding were the messages the he wanted to deliver and that all people were welcome there.

After the service, we all strapped on our gloves and got to work.  In less than one hour, all the plants were in the ground and the garden looked amazing.  We took a break for lunch and met again at Tri Cycle, across the street.

The location chosen at Tri Cycle to put the rain garden in was very special to me, as it bordered another garden bed that has a very special significance.  Tri Cyclists call it the Wangari Guild, because it is dedicated to Wangari Maathai, an African heroine and “shero” of mine, who earned her PhD in the U. S. before returning to Africa where she started a non-profit organization there that has since been responsible for planting over 40,000,000 trees.  In that garden space, were planted three cherry trees and other native, medicinal plants.

It was an honor to know that I was partially responsible for making these rain gardens happen, in other public spaces, and at Tri Cycle Farms and I was humbled by the thought of having taken part in a work similar to that of Wangari Maathia, laboring to better the environment.

Of all of the rain gardens that I have had the opportunity to plant during this project, the one at Tri Cycle Farms, tucked in for the winter right next to the Wangari Guild, will always be my favorite.

Jodi NimmoJodi Nimmo is currently an undergrad at the University of Arkansas studying Sociology, Sustainability and Gender Studies. She is the lead organizer of a student group on campus and an active volunteer at Tri Cycle community farms as well as with other non-profits in her community. Jodi will be working with the Illinois River Watershed Partnership to build rain gardens in the watershed community and educating the community about the importance of keeping water clean.

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