Ocean Friendly Gardens, Basic Class, GAP, HOW
January 26 2012

OFG Taking Root in Pacific Northwest With Soil & Water Conservation Districts

by Paul Herzog


In Newport/Oregon, the Surfrider-Newport Chapter, Lincoln Soil and Water Conservation District (LSWCD) and the City of Newport created an OFG at Newport City Hall. The project was long overdue for Newport City Hall beautification and for needed stormwater infrastructure (which the garden helped to replace!). Stacy Polkowske, Watershed Technical Specialist at LSWCD and a Chapter activist, was a key organizer. Chapter and LSWCD volunteers helped out with the planting, too.


Preliminary design and drawings were done by Surfrider Volunteer, Allan Schmidt. Allan’s day job is doing this kind of work in Portland, where OFG-type of run-off treatment is mandatory by code. The project got some good press coverage, and there's a slideshow-type video of the site prep and above is a slideshow of before/during/after photos.

The Portland/Oregon Chapter is launching an OFG Program by co-hosting East Multnomah SWCD's "Rain Gardens 101" workshop on April 21st. The workshop teaches you "how to assess your site to determine the best location and size, calculate impervious surfaces, determine soil suitability, choose appropriate plants, and how to maintain your new rain garden." Participants get a manual on how to construct a rain garden. Tara Gallagher is the Portland Chapter OFG sub-committee.

The Seattle/Washington Chapter held its first workday at member Joe Wood's home, and was lead by fellow member and landscape designer, Cole Thompson. Joe and Cole formed an OFG sub-com't and created a blog to track the sub-committee's activities (see pictures of the workday at Joe's). The Chapter, with lots of help from Washington Regional Manager Shannon Serrano, just submitted a grant proposal to integrate OFG with the Chapter's water quality testing program (Blue Water Task Force) and partner with local organizations and the City.

Who qualifies to host a workday? Some OFG sub-committees in Southern California have been experimenting with guidelines listed in the OFG Activist Toolkit. They have hosted a Basics Class, and picked someone from the Class who is ready to go with a retrofit to be the site of the workday. In exchange for getting free help from Surfrider volunteers, workday hosts are asked to do their homework: create a design that meets OFG sign criteria; gather all materials by the time of the workday; provide food and drink; invite neighbors and friends; and pay it forward (such as by helping neighbors and friends go OFG). All this is listed in an OFG workday agreement form, signed by a chapter and workday host.

Surfrider's Oregon Regional Manager, Charlie Plybon, has a neat spin on it. In addition to attending an OFG-type Class and paying for the materials, a host commits to volunteer a certain number of times building gardens. Of course, if an OFG sub-com't is just starting out and has no one who has earned hours, the first workday host can agree to pay-it-forward. Other organizations have developed similar models: Watershed Management Group in Arizona has a coop structure, and Stewardship Partners in Washington has a "cluster" concept.

Give it a try and we can share your successes and recommendations in a blog post!

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