By Deborah Dorsey, West Grand Boulevard Collaborative
Detroit is a city with a great history and a promising future—and I am proud to be a member of the West Grand Boulevard Collaborative (WGBC)— a community organization working as a catalyst to build a safer and more beautiful community. WGBC members are residents, businesses and institutions who cooperate to develop and foster an aesthetically pleasing atmosphere of peace and prosperity in their West Grand Boulevard community.
As Detroit builds toward its future, we know there are factors we can’t control. Climate scientists tell us that weather patterns are changing. Rain events will produce greater volumes of rain and summer temperatures will be hotter. Just this summer, 30 billion gallons of raw sewage was discharged into the Detroit and Rouge Rivers from our storm events (Sierra Club, Great Lakes Office).
But the WGBC is not only working to beautify our community, we are working to prevent raw sewage from being released into our lakes and rivers (and even backing up into our basements). By means of preventing storm water from entering sewers, the risk of polluting lakes, rivers and basements is greatly reduced. To achieve this goal, The WGBC partnered with the Department of Horticulture at Michigan State University (MSU) to install three rain gardens at the Detroit Public Library—Duffield Branch. Under the guidance of Dr. Robert Schutzki, WGBC community volunteers and MSU students completed the rain garden installations in June of this year. The three rain gardens, and the larger landscape plan, demonstrate the benefits of low-impact and sustainable landscape design by use of plants with deep roots (that store great amounts of water), permeable pavement (that allows water to flow through to be absorbed underground), and rain barrels (that collect water from downspouts), etc. These kinds of low impact and sustainable components help to reduce the amount of pollution entering the Detroit River and the Great Lakes.
The rain gardens at Duffield are components of the Mary and Albert H. Mallory Reading Garden, which demonstrates how public and private grounds can be transformed into sustainable and beautiful low impact landscapes using horticultural design and sculputral artwork. The reading garden will officially open in the spring of 2012.
Funding for this project has graciously been provided by the Kresge Foundation— Community Arts Program, the College for Creative Studies, Freshwater Future, Sierra Club of Detroit, Henry Ford Hospital, Rosemary and James Evenhuis, Friends of the Detroit Public Library and Shock Brothers Tree Care.
The WGBC and the Detroit Public Libray would especially like to thank the dedicated and hard-working volunteers from Michigan State University, Sobriety House, Wayne State University—AmeriCorp and Henry Ford Hospital for helping us make a success of this project.
I sincerely hope that the rain gardens—and all of the design elements that stop the pollution of our rivers and lakes—will be copied all over our city. The Detroit River, Great Lakes and all of our water resources are vital and precious. They must be kept clean for those hot summer days when we want to cool ourselves in Michigan waters, both now and in the future.