University of Delaware
delware environmental institute

“Rain Gardens for the Bays” Launched at the Delaware Agricultural Museum in Dover

News from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.
Vol. 40, No. 320
Contact: Lara Allison, Watershed Assessment, 302-739-9939; or Melanie Rapp, Public Affairs, 302-739-9902
Photos available by contacting: 302-739-9902

DOVER (Sept. 15, 2010) – With two newly-planted rain gardens as the backdrop, “Rain Gardens for the Bays” – a regional campaign for greening our neighborhoods  and improving water quality in the Delaware Bay, Maryland Coastal Bays, and Delaware’s Inland Bays – was launched today at the Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village.
At the event, Governor Jack Markell signed a Proclamation declaring Sept. 15 – 21, 2010 as “Rain Gardens for the Bays Week” in Delaware and encouraged the public to create rain gardens where they work, live and play.
“Inch by inch, and row by row, these gardens help channel the rain and runoff to reduce pollution in our bays and protect homes and businesses from flooding,” Governor Markell said.
A rain garden is a garden located in a shallow depression near a runoff source – a downspout, driveway or paved surface – with soil that drains quickly and deep-rooted native plants and grasses that naturally absorb water and filter pollutants. According to the Center for Watershed Protection, typically about 30 percent more water from a rain soaks into the ground in a rain garden than the same size area of lawn.
With increased development and less natural terrain, pollution from stormwater runoff has become a serious threat to our waterways. When rainwater from storms comes in contact with buildings, roads, parking lots and other impervious surfaces, the runoff collects pollutants – oil and grease, nutrients, bacteria, harmful metals, and other substances – and deposits these pollutants in our waterways.
“Improving water quality of our bays and local waterways is among our highest priorities as a state," said Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Collin O'Mara. "Rain gardens are sustainable, affordable and particularly effective in capturing rain water, mitigating flooding, creating habitat for local species and reducing up to 80 percent of the pollutants in stormwater runoff.  By planting a rain garden, we can all make a difference in reducing pollution – one garden at a time.”
The campaign includes a new one-stop website,, with easy-to-use information and diagrams on how to design and build a rain garden.  Photos of rain gardens planted throughout the region are posted, and the site encourages the registration of new rain gardens as a way to measure the progress of the campaign. All new rain gardens registered on the website will receive a “Registered Rain Garden” sign to post at their garden.
Funding for 10 demonstration rain gardens was awarded to the campaign through the federal Clean Water Act Nonpoint Source Program via a grant to DNREC’s “319” program. Demonstration rain gardens are being located throughout the region at public buildings, schools, museums and other sites with public access, as a way to educate and encourage people to plant rain gardens.
"Protecting our waterways from urban and suburban stormwater runoff is a top priority for EPA," said Shawn M. Garvin, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mid-Atlantic regional administrator.  "The best thing about this Rain Garden campaign is that it offers communities the opportunity to help protect the rivers and streams they value by contributing to a proven, less costly approach that will reap environmental and health benefits for years to come.”  
In Delaware, “Rain Gardens for the Inland Bays” was first announced in April 2009 by the Center for the Inland Bays as a program to encourage the creation of 1,000 rain gardens for the Inland Bays Watershed.  The Center for the Inland Bays is one of the partners leading the way in promoting the EPA Rain Gardens for the Bays Campaign which joined together the three Mid-Atlantic National Estuary Programs and other state, local and non-profit organizations to develop and promote the creation of 1000 rain gardens in estuarine watersheds throughout Delaware, southeastern Pennsylvania and coastal Maryland.
“It's encouraging to see our “Rain Gardens for the Bays “initiative expanded on a regional scale that now involves a variety of successful federal, state and local partnerships.  I think this project exemplifies the value and efficiencies that Delaware's National Estuary Programs offer and we are excited by the opportunities to create healthy communities and healthy bays," said Center for the Inland Bays Executive Director Ed Lewandowski.
Several campaign partners are working with homeowners, organizations, schools and others to provide assistance with installing rain gardens. Next spring, the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary will work with Fairview Elementary School in Dover to design and build a rain garden adjacent to the school. At today’s event, the Partnership’s Executive Director Jennifer Adkins presented Fairview Elementary School Principal Marcia Harrison and several students with a rain garden education kit to help them prepare for the project.
“Working with students to create rain gardens on their schoolyards not only helps protect our local streams, but is a great way to show kids how they can make a difference in their community,” said Adkins.
The two rain gardens installed at the Delaware Agricultural Museum were funded by a State of Delaware Community Water Quality Improvement grant recommended by the Delaware Clean Water Advisory Council. The gardens were designed by DNREC’s Watershed Stewardship staff, excavated by Kent County Conservation District staff, and planted by DNREC and student volunteers from Polytech and Caesar Rodney High School.

“The Delaware Clean Water Advisory Council recognized the value of the rain garden initiative to improving the quality of Delaware’s stream, bays and other waters and recommended funding for the rain gardens planted here at the Delaware Agricultural Museum,” said Vice Chairperson Jeffrey Bross. “The Council provided grant funding for other demonstration sites as well – the rain garden at the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service building in Dover and the one to be constructed next spring at Fairview Elementary School. We believe that the “Rain Gardens for the Bays” campaign is a meaningful and effective way to involve property owners in a program that can make a real difference in water quality throughout the state.”

Campaign partners are also conducting workshops, trainings, native plant sales and other activities promoting rain gardens. Education and outreach materials are available to organizations, landscapers, and garden centers.  Visit the website,, for more information.                                 
The “Rain Gardens for the Bays” campaign includes the following partners: Partnership for the Delaware Estuary; Center for the Inland Bays; Maryland Coastal Bays; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 3; Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control; Sussex County Conservation District; University of Delaware Cooperative Extension Service; University of Delaware Sea Grant program; Delaware Nature Society; Delaware Nursery and Landscape Association; Town of Ocean City, MD; Assateague Coastal Trust; and Grow Berlin Green (City of Berlin, MD).
Demonstration rain gardens are located at: the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment campus in Lewes; the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service building in Dover; the St. Jones Reserve, a component of the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve, near Dover; the Germantown and Rosewald School in Berlin, Maryland; and the Delaware Agricultural Museum in Dover.
Demonstration rain gardens are planned for: Blackbird State Forest near Smyrna; Rittenhouse Park in Newark; and the Sussex County Library in Milton.