After three days of great team effort by 60 volunteers, representing a number of organizations and individuals, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy helped construct a rain garden at Freedom Park in the Town of Leesburg. By noon on November 13, a beautiful fall day, the volunteers had planted 260 native trees, shrubs, perennials, and grasses. The enthusiasm, the involvement, and the sense of community, was incredible.
Rain gardens are landscaped areas that capture and filter pollutants from stormwater that runs off impervious surfaces such as parking lots and rooftops. The plants in the garden also slow the stormwater lessening its potential to create sediment and cause erosion.
The native plants in the garden are chosen for their ability to tolerate the wet-dry conditions and absorb and capture the pollutants as they soak into the soil.
Freedom Park was selected as the site following recommendations of the Leesburg Watershed Committee to implement rain gardens and other “low impact development” practices to filter pollutants and reduce the amount of stormwater entering streams. The project site borders a large parking lot which slopes towards a large swale with a stormwater drain at the lowest point of the swale. The rain garden was planted where most of the runoff from the parking lot flows into the swale before it enters the storm drain.
For two days prior to the actual planting, town employees from the Department of Public Works (DPW), prepared the site according to the plans designed by Jeff Lange of Dewberry and Davis. Several volunteers helped Jeff as he directed the town staff on how to prepare the site that involved excavating an area of approximately 5,000 square feet. Both Jeff and the volunteers were in awe of Joe Hobbie of DPW as he operated a number of pieces of heavy equipment to first remove about a foot of hard-packed red clay and berm the rain garden ‘depression’ according to design. The soil was then mixed with mulch before returning it to the site with assistance from the other DPW staff.
After the town’s employees finished their work, Jeff Wolinski, a consulting ecologist, and Jeff Lange instructed the volunteers on where all of the plants should be laid out for planting on Saturday. On Saturday, after Jeff Wolinski described how everything should be planted, the volunteers first put in two river birches, eight red chokeberries, eight arrow-wood viburnums, seven silky dogwoods, and seven possumhaw viburnums. The latter two shrubs were planted in the wettest part of the garden while the others, because they are more tolerant of dry conditions, were planted in higher locations.
After the trees and shrubs were planted switchgrass was planted in the lowest part of the garden along with swamp milkweed and New England aster. The remaining perennials, blue indigo, wild bergamot, beard tongue, and mountain mint were planted in higher locations. All of these plants are tolerant of the wet-dry conditions found in rain gardens and, once established, should be almost maintenance-free and benefit our native pollinators.
The enthusiasm of the volunteers, which included a group from Leesburg’s Parks and Recreation R.O.C.K program, as well as numerous other children with their parents, was quickly demonstrated by finishing all the plantings before 11 am. The large remaining piles of dirt and mulch then rapidly disappeared as it was spread around all the plantings. At the same time more than two tons of river rock was placed at the head of the swale to slow stormwater rushing into the garden during a storm. After watering all the plants and cleaning up the site we finished by noon.
It was incredible participating in the planning and the work that went into this effort by more than 60 volunteers representing a number of organizations, town committees, and town departments, all coordinated by Neely Law, Chair of Leesburg’s Environmental Advisory Commission. The cooperation and help from the Town of Leesburg and especially the Department of Public Works and the Department of Parks and Recreation guaranteed the project’s success. Special thanks goes to Dewberry and Davis for designing the project, the Dulles Greenway for donating funds to the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy through the Dulles Greenway’s Drive for Charity, and to the many employees of the Town of Leesburg for all their hard work.
The Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy would like to thank all the following people, many of whom are members, who made this project such a tremendous success:
Elise Albenesius, Frances Ashland, Susan Berry Hill, Alex Brun, Erik Brun, Ethan Brun, Dave Butler, Celina Cash, Rhonda Chocha, Joe Coleman, Phil Daley, Rene Dennis, Sam Dennis, Cory Dwyer, Rockie Fera, Sheila Ferguson, Bill Fissel, Ellie Florance, David Fuller, Taylor Gantt, Eneli Grabbi, Irish Grandfield, Senia Hamwi, Farris Hamwi, Maysi Hamwi, Zane Hamwi, Terry Hoffman, Len Lacey, Lauren Lang, Jason Lang, Jeff Lange, Neely Law, Nan McCarry, Paul Miller, Natalie Pien, Sara Runge, Bob Ryan, Jordan Ryan, Tom Seeman, Devon Smith, Leslie Soltario, Julie Still, Karen Strick, Laura Vasquez, Wesley Wade, Joanne Walker, Ron Williams, Norma Wilson, Jeff Wolinski, Parks & Recreation R.O.C.K. Program:, Anesha Jackson, Darius Jackson, Jermaine Murray, Kiaja Murray, Feven Mekbib, Alexy Perez, Kidus Woekneh, Nate Woekneh, Parks & Recreation Staff:, Tony Conway, George Fatseas, Bill Ference, Betsy Montgomery, Paul Shockley, Devon Smith, Kate Trask, Rich Williams, Public Works Staff:, Joe Hobbie, Tom Mason, Charlie Mumaw, Jennifer Nelson, Pat Payne, Josh Pratt, Scott Rodrick, Mike Russell, Tommy Spring, Cary Stephens.
For more photos from the day visit these two sites: