Right as rain: Illinois village’s rain garden tackles stormwater runoff issues

Native plants will filter pollutants, provide wildlife habitat and protect against flooding

It may take some time for this Illinois village’s native habitat to take root.

Apparently, no one told a certain winged visitor.

This past spring, the Homer Township Road District put spades to earth and planted the Homer Highway Rain Garden—a community-based project designed to tackle urban stormwater runoff issues.

“We wanted to attract birds, butterflies and bees. And it still makes me laugh—when we were planting, we weren’t even done and there was a dragonfly that had taken over,” recalls project organizer Marcia De Vivo. “He was here constantly, checking everything out.”

The Homer Highway Rain Garden is a 550-square-yard patch of paradise with trees and bushes, a limestone path, interpretive signage and about 1,500 colorful native plant plugs—including butterfly milkweed, prairie smoke, fox sedge, marsh blazing star and purple prairie clover.

The 150-foot-long rain garden project stems from a watershed plan created for the Village of Homer Glen, Illinois, based in the greater Chicago region. Inexpensive, simple, and environmentally sound, rain gardens are extremely beneficial to urban and suburban neighborhoods.

They provide protection from flooding. They improve water quality by filtering pollutants, such as pesticides, fertilizers, gas, oil, grass clippings and other residue, from stormwater. They provide food and shelter for birds, butterflies and insects, and they beautify neighborhoods with minimal maintenance.

“Half of the people in our village are on private wells. They have to rely on the constant replenishment of the aquifer,” says De Vivo. “We don’t want all the water that falls on a piece of property carried away by a culvert or a sewer system. It needs to soak into the ground.”

Enbridge takes environmental responsibility seriously, and we invest in grassroots projects that promote environmental stewardship, conservation, remediation and education. In Homer Glen, we supported the Long Run Creek Watershed Plan when it was created in 2013, and donated $5,000 toward the creation of the Homer Highway Rain Garden.

An essential element of this project is educating the public about the benefits of rain gardens, particularly for residents experiencing drainage issues. De Vivo is working on an educational program with the Homer Township Public Library, potentially involving local schoolchildren.

“Kids are the ones who will push initiatives like these forward. After hearing about the benefits of rain gardens, they become the environmental advocates in their homes,” says De Vivo.

“Enbridge, the Homer Township Road District and the road commissioner’s office have been instrumental in supporting our watershed plan development,” she adds. “It’s so rewarding to see a project like this start to bloom.”

(TOP PHOTO: An artist's rendition of the Homer Highway Rain Garden in a few years' time.)