Rain pools in the parking lot of Monterey school before spilling over into a recently dug trench. The rivulet trickles down and across to a rapidly muddying patch where students dig holes for new plants. A little different than the average school landscaping, the design and plant selection of this garden have a specific goal.
“The plants we’re putting into the soil, they’re going to help filter the water,” student Luc Hodkinson explained. Catching that water in a rain garden and disseminating it through the soil means it has days, weeks and months to feed the creek at a moderate pace, with clean water.
The plants also provide a cooling effect for the area, the Grade 8 student added. This class is finishing up work started about three school years ago, teacher Josh Elsdon explained.
In spring 2020 a group of students in grades 6, 7 and 8 were in hybrid classes in response to pandemic measures, Elsdon said. At that time, he worked with groups such as the Friends of Bowker Creek’s Gerald Harris and Christina Johnson-Dean on habitat rehabilitation at Anderson Hill. The kids learned about environmental initiatives in the community.
One in particular, was the rain garden on Monterey Avenue adjacent to the recreation centre and library.
“That’s what inspired us to start talking about having it here at Monterey. We engaged with our grounds department and the municipality and the CRD and it was pretty cool to see all of those different cogs in the big machine working together,” Elsdon said. Much of the group that sparked the idea is now in Grade 11 and members of this year’s Grade 8 class planted the garden Nov. 4.
“It’s pretty gratifying to see it at this stage now,” Elsdon said.
It’s one of two garden initiatives led by the Friends of Bowker Creek and Peninsula Streams and Shorelines, the other was planted at Campus View elementary a couple days earlier. The Saanich school is adjacent to the headwaters of Bowker Creek, which starts near the University Club at UVic.
Harris hopes the two schools are just the start, as the Friends of Bowker Creek embark on its 1,000 rain garden project to restore the waterway by getting water into the ground rather than storm sewers.
“A lot of the action of restoring Bowker Creek doesn’t happen at the creek it happens all over Bowker Creek’s valley because the storm drain system right now sends water into storm drains and into sewers and directly into the creek. It carries with it every kind of poising and toxin on the streets and yards,” Harris said.
Gardens like the new one at Monterey direct that water into the soil and roots where bacteria can break down the toxins and water slowly flows to a natural waterway.
Happening now: Students are planting our new Raingarden - a partnership project w @MontereyStorm (@mr_elsdon & @KenAndrewsEduc), @sd61schools Facilities Dept, Peninsula Streams Society and community volunteers 😊 pic.twitter.com/kx7z0ubHFn— Monterey Middle (@MontereyStorm) November 4, 2022
At Campus View that’s Bowker, at Monterey it’s McNeill Bay, explained Kyle Armstrong, restoration coordinator with Peninsula Streams and Shorelines, the society that funds the education and plants through the Pacific Salmon Foundation, TD Friends of the Environment and BC Nature Trust.
“We’re hoping to move into other communities and partner with other stewardship groups, other classes and really get the reach of this program expanded through the Capital Region,” Armstrong said.
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