Let it Rain | First Congregational UCC, Brainerd

Brainerd celebrates the Mississippi River running through our city. When the Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) announced a community grant program last spring to help reduce impacts of rain and snow melt runoff (which ends up in the river), members of the First Congregational United Church of Christ of Brainerd saw an opportunity. The church was dealing with a couple of issues including standing water for long periods of time in the parking lot and excess roof runoff causing church building foundation problems. The congregation was awarded a grant to install two rain gardens and two rain barrels.

Brainerd Rain Garden 05The project did not come without challenges. The parking lot had a natural slope to where the south rain garden was installed, but due to a drop in elevation of the parking lot on either side, directing water to the garden was an issue. Fortunately we have members with architecture, construction and stormwater mitigation experience. We also tapped into the expertise of the SWCD technician. We designed and installed two valley gutters to intercept and direct runoff from the building, parking lot and adjacent alley into the rain garden. We installed a catchment to capture excessive sediment from the gravel alley (see photo).

The second rain garden was designed to absorb church building roof runoff and overflow from two 250 gallon rain barrels. We sloped the ground away from the building foundation into the rain garden. A rain garden berm outflow allows for excessive water to drain away from the garden and building for those really big rain events. We will install the rain barrels next spring. The water harvested will be used in a straw bale garden in which vegetables are grown for our local food shelf and flowers for the soup kitchen.

Brainerd Rain Garden 04August tends to be pretty dry, but not this year! We had a couple of wash-outs and a few other delays during construction, but overall the project went extremely well due to the dedication, persistence and willingness to show up by the many church members who helped with all aspects of the project. Both rain gardens were planted with native species of grasses, sedges and flowers the first week of September. Both are functioning as designed to absorb 1.25 inches of water within forty-eight hours after a rain event. They look lovely and will look even more attractive as the plants grow. Besides fixing the building and parking lot excessive water problems this congregation is practicing environmental stewardship by reducing the amount of stormwater runoff and snow melt entering the Mississippi River and instead recharging the groundwater which supplies our city’s drinking water.

We have plans to install one or two benches near one of the rain gardens so members and neighbors may sit, visit and enjoy.

If you would like to learn more about this project please contact Ellie Burkett (prairiesmoke757@gmail.com), Coleen Carder (cjcarder@gmail.com) or Nancy Gould (flutterbynanc@hotmail.com).

…from Ellie Burkett, project coordinator, First Congregational UCC, Brainerd