Thursday, June 24, 2021

Rain gardens at Plymouth complex will help area environment 

Plymouth Morning Rotary Club member Beth Stewart, 
center, receives a bit of help planting in the club rain garden
from her grandchildren, Jack Tuscan, 3, and Ava Tuscan, 6,
 under the watchful eye of Rain Garden Coordinator
 Matt Bertrand, left, and Morning Rotary Club 
President-elect Chris Kelly, far right. Photo by David Willett
Mother Nature was the guest of honor last week when state and local officials along with area volunteers and members of Friends of the Rouge welcomed the new rain gardens at the Plymouth Arts and Recreation Complex (PARC) in downtown Plymouth.

The former parking lot at the facility has been transformed into 20,000 square feet of individual rain gardens expected to absorb as much as 5,000 gallons of water each rainstorm helping to reduce flooding for neighbors and ease the load on storm sewers, officials said.  The garden plantings will also provide native habitats for birds, bees, butterflies and other pollinators. 

Plymouth Arts and Recreation Complex Vice President Mark Malcolm,
at podium,  welcomes the crowd to the official rain gardens
opening last week with support from Michigan Environmental
Quality Analyst Jack Cotrone, seated from left, State Rep. Matt Kolezar,
 Plymouth Mayor Oliver Wolcott and Plymouth Township Supervisor
Kurt Heise. At far right is Marie McCormick, executive director
of Friends of the Rouge. Photo by David Willett.
The gardens, each planted and maintained by a civic group, industry or local club, are also expected to help maintain water levels in Tonquish Creek as the plants should help store the rainwater in the ground so that it can travel over weeks and even months to help prevent flooding, providing water to local creeks during dry times.

“Prior to planting these rain gardens, rain would fall off the parking lot here, go into drains and into a creek and immediately flush out of the system,” Friends of the Rouge Restoration Coordinator Matthew Bertrand explained. “We've received reports that homes nearby this site have been affected by flooding due to the set up.” Now, he said, the rainwater will nourish the fledgling plants in the various gardens and bolster the environment, as Mother Nature intended.

More than 300 volunteers spent about 35 days to plant the 23 separate rain gardens and a walking trail along the various plantings at the parking lot site behind the PARC facility on Main Street in Plymouth.  There are more than 5,000 native Michigan plants along with butterfly and hummingbird gardens already installed at the site with plans to double that number as soon as possible. The project was funded by a $400,000 grant the Friends of the Rouge organization received from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy along with a significant donation from PARC supporters.

Several of the various rain garden plantings have
already taken root and begun to grow.
Photo by David Willett

The parking lot, PARC officials agreed, was in dire need of repair prior to the project. When Friends of the Rouge leaders learned of plans to improve the lots, they saw it, literally from their office windows in the PARC building, as an opportunity to install the model rain gardens.   

Volunteers from several civic groups and corporations, including DTE, joined in the planting efforts, which continued  until the official opening last Thursday and which will go on through the summer. Volunteers are needed for a scheduled 9 a.m. planting tomorrow (June 25) and Saturday at PARC. Volunteers will receive a brief tour and orientation to rain gardens and native plants guided by an expert, and then will play a key role working to restore the Rouge River, Bertrand, who is also a landscape designer, advised.

The project also needs volunteers to water the gardens during the summer months. Those who can commit at least one regular four-hour block of time each week for the majority of the summer are asked to contact Bertrand at The work, he said, will include moving hoses and setting up lawn sprinklers at various gardens about once an hour with about 30 minutes of downtime between sprinkler movements.