CLARK — Approximately 200 freshman environmental science students at Arthur L. Johnson High School in Clark helped install a rain garden in the high school parking lot last month. Principal Richard Delmonaco and science teacher Suzanne Nagourney worked with Michele Bakacs of Rutgers Cooperative Extension, and the Township of Clark to coordinate student involvement in the project, which was funded by a grant from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
Plantings in the new rain garden will consist of native shrubs and grasses that help promote biodiversity, provide habitats for beneficial wildlife, improve stormwater drainage, and filter out contaminants. A future phase of the project includes plans to add a “green” car wash that will use rainwater collected from the roof of the Clark Public Works building to wash cars in student fund-raising projects. Car wash water runoff will then flow into the car wash rather than the storm drain.
According to the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County, The Arthur L. Johnson project is the first part of a larger program called the Robinson’s Branch Stormwater Management Implementation Project. It is collaboration between Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County, Rutgers Water Resources Program, the Township of Clark, and the City of Rahway.
Robinson’s Branch is a major tributary of the Rahway River. Scotch Plains, Edison, Woodbridge, Plainfield, Fanwood, Westfield, Clark, and Rahway are all included in the Robinson’s Branch watershed.
Much of the watershed is covered by developed surfaces including lawns and playing fields as well as streets, parking lots, and buildings. Instead of soaking into the ground, water runs from these areas into storm drains. The excess water contributes to flooding and carries pollutants including car care products, fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides, dog and goose waste, oil, and grease.
Rain gardens and other “green” infrastructure solutions such as rain barrels, cisterns, and porous paving surfaces can help prevent these pollutants from reaching natural waterways, in addition to reducing the threat of flooding.
“The other environmental science teachers and I were very happy to have student involvement in the rain garden project – the project provides a hands-on real life experience that relates directly to our new environmental science curriculum,” said Nagourney. “Learning about a local environmental problem and having the opportunity to be a part of a solution provides an invaluable lesson in real world environmental issues.”
Almost 200 environmental science Students from Arthur L. Johnson High School in Clark took turns helping to install a new rain garden last month, under the supervision of staff from the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County. The garden is specially designed to help reduce local flooding and filter out pollutants from stormwater. (photo credit: Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County).
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