HAMPDEN, Maine — When rain falls, it creates runoff known as storm water that slowly trickles toward streams and rivers, often picking up pollutants along the way.
There are a number of different ways to reduce runoff, but one of most effective and simplest measures is often the least publicized. Small plots of land known as rain gardens can be created to soak up storm water before it reaches rivers and streams. In most cases, the plants and flowers in the garden often thrive because those pollutants are not harmful to soil the way they would be in the water.
The town of Hampden liked the idea so much that it is planning to install an expansive rain garden at its municipal office off Western Avenue with help from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.
“For us, it solves a problem because we have had issues with runoff in our parking lot,” Town Manager Sue Lessard said. “But it’s also nice because it’s an environmentally conscious activity.”
A number of municipal officials and volunteers will begin installing the rain garden in front of the town office today and will finish the process on Friday. The garden will feature a variety of native plants, mostly perennials that don’t require fertilization.
“Basically, it’s a garden that’s sunken into the ground to collect rain water from hard surfaces,” explained Laura Wilson, an assistant scientist with UMaine Cooperative Extension and a Hampden resident who will be coordinating the volunteer effort. “The town wanted something beautiful and educational.”
CES Inc., a Brewer civil engineering firm, was contracted to design the layout for the garden, which will cover approximately 5,000 square feet. The town also will install signs explaining the benefits of a rain garden to visitors. Wilson said a local Girl Scout troop and members of the Cyberhounds 4-H Club will help with the installation.
Hampden, along with several other area municipalities, is a member of the Bangor Area Storm Water Group, a volunteer organization that coordinates projects that raise awareness of water quality issues. The group agreed to donate $5,000 toward Hampden’s new rain garden provided the town matches that contribution. Lessard said the town will end up donating an additional $10,000 worth of in-kind services to complete the project.
Although Hampden’s rain garden will be large and somewhat expensive, Wilson said rain gardens can be installed at residences at a much lower cost. More information about that process is available online at: www.umext.maine.edu/onlinepubs/PDFpubs/2702.pdf.