A project by the Blue Ridge Watershed Coalition (BRWC)

This project was made possible with a grant from the West Virginia Stream Partners Program

The demonstration project was part of a larger effort designed to capture the first inch of rainfall and slow and filter as much of the water as possible from the land around the Mountain Community Center (MCC) by:
  • Capturing rain from the rear roof and storing it in a cistern for irrigation and as an additional source of water for fire suppression
  • Capturing water from the front roof in a series of rain barrels for irrigation of a garden and,
  • Designing and constructing a drainage system to divert water from the driveway area and the hillside area into a rain garden. Water will also be "feathered" to spread it out and into an existing forested area.

Sediment laden water heads toward Forge Run and then to the Shenandoah River. The downpour was relatively short-lived this day. The photographer was fortunate to have someone holding the umbrella. The view is toward the northeast where Mission Road intersects with what soon will be Rt 115 (Old Route 9).


A BRWC Board Member stands in a gully created by water runoff in February of 2011.


FINALLY, in October of 2012, work began in earnest on the rain garden project.
...We'll introduce One of our most valuable partners on the project, @BigTom of Paydirt Construction. Tom's expertise has been invaluable in reaching the goals of controlling the stormwater.


Do you remember that driveway we saw a couple of images ago?

Big Tom has been adding a bit of fill dirt for MCC rain garden. The purpose here is to first obstruct traffic from using the eroded driveway and then create an area where an under-drain can be installed to filter water from a rain garden that will be planted in this area.

Much of the design for the rain garden construction was based on a publication by Fairfax County VA HERE.
It's full of information presented in an easy to read format.


Thanks to the contribution of the Department of Highways, Big Tom had a good deal of soil - called "Ditch Dirt" by the DOH - to use as fill. It's only right since much of that dirt was originally washed down from our mountainside. Note the rain barrel array at the side of the MCC. Its construction will be a separate article to be published soon.


A steady hand on the controls was necessary since the BobCat's behind was hanging out in the traffic.


The berm at the toe of the rain garden area began to take shape.


Drainage pipes donated by the County Health Department had been placed at the bottom of the future rain garden. Gravel and landscape cloth were then placed on top of the piping, providing an excellent drainage system. The area was then filled with a recommended soil mixture. Its composition was approximately 1/3 sand, 1/3 mulch and the remainder third the "ditch dirt" seen in an earlier frame. The water filtering thru the garden will then be discharged to the existing road ditch.


The arrows point to the pipes under the berm that provide the path for draining the filtered water.


The backfilling of the rain garden's area was completed. A small berm was formed (in this frame) to keep water from running off the surface of the garden too rapidly. This shows the nearly completed contour/topography of the garden's surface.


The embankment between the garden and road will be stabilized with vegetation.


Remaining soil will be used to aid in the planting process.


A pathway was cut into the forest just above the rain garden to gain access to the area where surface water from Mission Ridge will be feathered out into the forest's topsoil and leaf mulch.


A view peering down the path.


The path as it looked after Big Tom had worked his excavating magic. Water from the hillside behind the MCC will be diverted to the surface of wooded area (B) away from its present path (A) which has now been obstructed by an earth berm.


Another view of the berm with the intersection of Route 9 and Mission Road in the distant background.


@KatherineA, the group's thumb of green, stands next to some of the plantings. I'll add some photos of the plants as they will eventually look directly The plants are designed to "drink" a lot of water while holding the soil in place.


Carl, our indefatigable project planner, gave a final tilling to the garden's soil-Big Tom's equipment has compacted the earth-and planting commenced. The rain barrels and the cistern had been filled to overflowing from a recent rain and were ready to supply water to the young plants.


The planting day was gorgeous with temperatures in the 60s and the bright sun lit the fall foliage with stunning color. The plant selection came from The Prairie Nursery. You can search their website for a description of what we planted: 96 plants in a Rain Garden for medium soil and 96 plants of a Songbird blend garden. We also sowed seed for a Clay Buster garden and a small amount of a Woodland Savanna mix on and around the garden.


Adults and youngsters got involved and had loads of fun.


The only way to appreciate the full effect would be to visit the site. BRWC members would be tickled to arrange to meet with interested individuals and groups for a guided tour. You can contact us thru the website (blueridgewatershed.org) or by searching facebook for our page, "Blue Ridge Watershed Coalition".


Rain Garden's Grand Debut
Our materials were on display under a commodious pavilion. Free hot dogs and other foodstuffs available to our visitors. The Rain Barrels were readied to be raffled. The BRWC's potentates, Chair Ronda and Vice Chair Carl, pose for the camera. We can't begin to give too much credit to these two individuals for the success of our project.


Katherine gave the garden a final watering prior to the commencement of the festivities.The photos in the foreground were placed to show some before and after scenes as well as views of how the garden will appear in future years.


State Senator John Unger enters the raffle for a rain barrel as Carlen looks on. Sorry, Senator, you didn't win this time.


Hard Work Is Recognized!
Front L-R, Carl, John Maxey (Candidate for State Delegate, 66th District), Suzy Lucas ( West Virginia Conservation Agency), Ronda, Kat, Carlen
Back L-R, Lyn Widmyer (County Commissioner), One-eyed guy with patch, State Senator John Unger (District 16), Richard, Frances Morgan (County Commissioner), Ryan And front and center Sadie the Dog.

Suzy is presenting the BRWC with the West Virginia Watershed Network's Best New Watershed Association for the year 2012.

Quite an honor, Eh Wot?

As earlier promised:
How the garden appear when the plants take root and flourish.
The Prairie Nursery provided the group with details for the culture of the plants. The nursery estimates three years for the garden to reach status as a full fledged "prairie". The following images provide an idea of the future appearance.


Various grasses and Quinine (White Flowers)


Grasses as the will appear in early Summer


Yellow Coneflowers in the foreground


Culver's Root or Veronicastrum virginicum in the Snapdragon family) (Scrophulariaceae)


New prairie - The stretch with the many Blackeyed Susans is the "new" part and how the MCC is likely to look the first year


What the prairie might look like after a frost - in the fall the big andlittle Bluestem and Indian Grass turn brown and reddish.

Note: Where feasible lawns can be replaced with prairie grasses and wildflowers for some spectacular color and a home for wildlife.

The grand unveiling took place on October 27 2012. Tropical storm Sandy arrived late in the day on October 28th. The forecasts were dire with high winds and heavy rains predicted. Fortunately the storm traveled north of us but did donate a generous four and a half inches of rain.

There was a lot of hand wringing and fretting as the storm approached and increased in intensity. BUT, we are delighted to report that the garden survived and worked admirably even with 4 and a half times the rainfall for which it had been designed to capture.


Katherine inspects the garden's drain the day after tropical storm Sandy passed by. She opined that it was clear enough for a good hand-washing but it was too durned cold.


Shucks, the water looks good enough to drink though we're certainly not going to try.

We'll be keeping close track of the garden's progress.

Remember to treat your watershed gently.