If you walked or drove past the Cranford Municipal Building on Springfield Avenue at any point on Saturday, September 27th, you may have noticed a flurry of activity, and a lot of people with dirty hands. Those soiled citizens were volunteers, and the project they were working very hard on was the new rain garden that will adorn the front lawn of the municipal center in Cranford.
The project was funded by a $2,000 grant from “Sustainable Jersey,” a project that certifies communities in New Jersey for sustainability, and for the notion of doing good things for the immediate environment.
The concept of a rain garden is to not only beautify, but also to help with the absorption of storm water in an effort to stave off potential flooding. It’s no secret that Union County is a watershed environment, and prone to flooding during severe storms. Cranford has had more than its share of flooding in the past decade with Sandy, Irene, and other angry rainstorms. The rain garden being placed in front of the municipal building is meant to act as an incentive for residents to do the same on their own properties.
A rain garden “undoes” some of the damage and change we enact upon our environment by building structures and paving roads. The garden is meant to capture rain water than runs off of rooftops, driveways, and roads, that would otherwise contribute to flooding. This new garden was carefully and thoughtfully placed directly below the eaves of the meeting hall, where rain water previously emptied directly to the curb. The new collection of approximately 140 different types of plants should help alleviate some of that run-off. During very heavy rain, water can even collect within the garden and sit for up to a day or so before being absorbed. It is aesthetic, functional, AND an educational tool.
Residents who are interested in doing something similar at their own homes are greatly encouraged to do so. If you get online and put “rain garden” in the search box, HUNDREDS of ideas and tips come up. By planting a small garden near a downspout outside your home, you will not only beautify your property, but also divert rainwater that would otherwise collect in the street. By the way, rain barrels at the end of a downspout help tremendously, too, and don’t involve any planting, at all.
In the meantime, we can all enjoy the beauty and the functionality of the beautiful new garden in front of the municipal building. And be sure to thank any neighbors or fiends who helped out with the project!