Benton Harbor Rain Garden-Benton Harbor, Michigan
The Wightman rain garden, located at the firm's Benton Harbor office, was designed as part of a larger environmental effort to improve the water quality of Ox Creek in Southwest Michigan. According to the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, the Ox Creek is the last tributary to enter the Paw Paw River and is one of the most polluted, owing to the manufacturing facilities, shopping mall, large box stores, and farm operations that encompass it. Polluted stormwater runoff, often carrying dangerous chemicals, travels into the creek, leaving erosion in its wake. These factors cause the environment to suffer.
The goal of the 3,750 square foot rain garden is to capture runoff, filter pollutants from the water before it reaches the Ox Creek watershed and reduce the amount of runoff overall. The garden is designed to capture the first flush (or one-inch of rain) which is 4,250 cubic feet – or 31,800 gallons – of water. Once the water is captured and filtered, the garden is designed to empty within 48 hours.
Once construction began, 18 asphalt-covered parking lot spaces were removed, and dirt was excavated from the site. New soil and rocks were added to the garden, and a community planting day was held. The trees are growing, the native plants are thriving, and water entering Ox Creek is cleaner! Each spring, wildlife returns to the area as the site plays host to a mama duck, who laid her eggs among the rocks, grasses, and flowering plants, safe in the shelter of the rain garden.