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Rain gardens add a bit of sunshine while helping big lake

Marquette residents can help decrease stormwater and runoff that can pollute Lake Superior.

The Lake Superior Rain Garden Challenge is underway, with the help of the Superior Watershed Partnership and the Community Foundation of Marquette County and other local groups, to promote these special gardens.

The groups will reward three residential rain gardens with $2,000 and two commercial or institutional rain gardens with $3,000 each in the city.

But as the case with much of 2020 so far, there have been roadblocks. With this initiative, they have come in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic and cold spring weather, which have hindered some people’s efforts.

So, the application deadline for the project has been extended until Friday.

The purpose of a rain garden, other than to add aesthetic appeal, is to catch stormwater better than regular turf.

According to the Groundwater Foundation, based in Lincoln, Nebraska, a rain garden is composed of native shrubs and flowers planted in a small depression and generally formed on a natural slope.

A rain garden temporarily holds and soaks in runoff and is effective in removing up to 90% of nutrients and chemicals and up to 80% of sediments from rainwater runoff.

And compared with a conventional lawn, a rain garden allows for 30% more water to soak into the ground.

Not only does a rain garden, when planted with native vegetation, attract beneficial birds and insects, it’s easy to maintain after it’s been established.

A group will look at applications in the Lake Superior Rain Garden Challenge and determine whether site requirements are met in terms of impervious surface area treated by the rain garden, adherence to city codes for the types of plants chosen and the site’s creativity and visibility.

Rain gardens can provide a sense of how water sources are connected, from rain falling from the sky and onto ground, and eventually into Lake Superior.

The runoff that enters Lake Superior — and, really, any body of water — should be as unpolluted as possible to make Lake Superior as unpolluted as possible. The wildlife that live in or near the lake deserve that.

So, we see the Lake Superior Rain Garden Challenge was a fun way for residents and businesses to spruce up their property and help the environment at the same time, and should add a little brightness at a time when that’s sorely needed.

For more information on the project, visit superiorwatersheds.org/rain-garden-challenge or call 906-228-6095.

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