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Building an urban rain garden in Indianapolis

August 19th, 2010 / By: / Geomembranes, Industry News

Stormwater project benefits from Firestone’s donation

Indianapolis-based Firestone Specialty Products Company LLC (FSSP) collaborated with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful Inc., Schmidt Associates, and The Athenaeum Foundation this summer to build an environmentally friendly rain garden that serves dual purposes.

“Mother Nature has a phenomenal way of cleaning up her surroundings, but she can only do so much,” said Paul Oliveira of FSSP. “We wanted to construct the rain garden as a demonstration of how we can assist and encourage a natural process.”

Oliveira was approached by Keep Indianapolis Beautiful Inc. in September 2009 about providing a watertight rubber liner for the project. The rain garden, which began construction in April 2010, is located outside The Athenaeum Foundation building on East Michigan Street.

“We wanted this to be a two-fold project,” Oliveira said. “First, to have the beauty of the rain garden and, second, the functionality of stormwater retention and filtration.”

A problem in cities throughout the country is the lack of efficient and sanitary stormwater drainage systems. Storm drains are designed to take in only a certain amount of water in an allotted time, which often results in flooding and erosion. The polluted rainwater runoff can then flow into sewage drains and contaminate rivers and streams. The construction of rain gardens is one way to help solve this problem and is a step toward environmental sustainability.

Craig Flandermeyer, a landscape architect from Schmidt Associates, designed the area and chose the plants for the rain garden. The first step was to dig a large hole to contain the garden infrastructure. Downspouts were positioned to collect rainwater and feed it into the stormwater collection area, located at the lowest part of the basin.

Next, FSS’s 45-mil PondGard liner, a single-ply synthetic waterproofing membrane, was installed to make the area watertight. Gravel and a filter liner were set atop the membrane to improve drainage before replacing the soil and adding plant life. The native plants ultimately act as natural filters to soak up rainwater that collects in the basin.

“The plants I chose for the rain garden were positioned according to the space provided for us as well as the different levels of the basin,” said Flandermeyer. “Plants selected for the bottom of the basin, where most of the water is stored, can handle a wetter soil, while the ones along the sides prefer a dry soil.”

The finished product is similar to virtually any other garden landscape. The rubber liner is hidden by hundreds of pounds of rocks, soil, and plant life. The only indicator that Firestone was ever there is a commemorative plaque applauding the company’s donation.

“It makes it difficult to talk about your product when no one sees it,” explained Oliveira, “but we like to get involved with community ventures around the city and we are pleased with the results of this project.”

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