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Portland Chapter Follows Rain Garden Class With Site Evaluation and Garden Building

July 20 2012 | Ocean Friendly Gardens, Basic Class, HOW,
by Paul Herzog

It's always a good idea to find out what kind of water quality programming your local agencies and non-profits are already doing, and what gaps exist. The Newport, OR Chapter had launched it's Ocean Friendly Gardens (OFG) Program by partnering with their local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). So just prior to the 2011 Pacific Northwest Regional Surfrider Chapter Conference, Oregon Surfrider Field Manager, Charlie Plybon, and Portland, OR OFG Lead, Tara Gallagher, joined me (Surfrider's OFG Coordinator) in holding meetings with the City of Portland as well as the East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District.

A City representative said that after helping to redirect 56,000 raingutter downspouts into landscapes (preventing over 1 billions gallons of polluted runoff from going to the ocean), they were turning their attention to inspiring urban tree planting. However, the City rep liked the Surfrider Garden Assistance Party (GAP) and Lawn Patrol (neighborhood walk) activities. We learned that the East Multnomah SWCD teaches a "Rain Garden 101 Workshop," and invites community groups to co-host them. The Portland Chapter jumped on this opportunity, and co-hosted a Workshop. (Note: an OFG and "rain garden" are essentially the same. But since an OFG works to prevent polluted runoff everyday - rain or no rain - we tend not to use the phrase "rain gardens." Also, OFG guidelines apply to the entire landscape.)

The Workshop was taught by EMSWCD representative, Lora Price, a licensed landscape architect specializing in edible and native landscapes. There was a classroom component where they calculated impervious surfaces and sized rain gardens on paper and a field component where they went to check out a rain garden in the area, identify plants and talk about how they could improve the site.Tara presented at the Workshop about Surfrider, encouraging people to apply for an OFG yard sign, and to post their gardens to the online OFG tracker. They had a great turnout: 28 people attended the Class.

One of the next steps they had discussed was to install a rain garden at a Chapter member's house. This would help them build their experience and knowledge, and hopefully generate momentum for the OFG program. Surfrider's Ocean Programs Manager and Portland resident, Pete Stauffer, offered his home up for the retrofit and a group planning meeting was set and promoted.

Step 1: a group planning kick-off BBQ was held at Pete's home to do some preliminary planning. The event also was a good opportunity to bring engage Chapter members and others that have signed up over the past months, wanting to get more involved with OFG. With the help of Hannah Snyder of Rain City Gardens (pictured at left, seated, with pen and calculator), the chapter is planning to install two OFGs that will collect and treat stormwater runoff. Activities for the day included:

1. Observe and map the site
2. Determine the location of the rain gardens
3. Assess the soil - percolation and type tests
4. Determine the size of the rain gardenCheck out Hannah's cool blogpost about the day's activities.

Step 2: The project will culminate on September 16 when Pete and the Chapter host a work party to install the OFGs. If you’d like to help with the project, please email Pete at pstauffer@surfrider.org and he’ll plug you in.

For details about the OFG at Newport City Hall, check out this blogpost, with an updated before/during/after slideshow. Check out the OFG Activist Toolkit to learn more details about OFG activities and how to put them on.

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