Here at our office, we call them “Swifties.” But really we are referring to Mitchell Neighborhood Ann Arbor residents. HRWC is working with these neighbors on a project to capture polluted runoff from rain and melting snow before it can flow into the Swift Run Creek.

Rain Gardens are pretty

We began this project by assessing the health of the creek in 2015. Results give us a baseline so we can return to evaluate the stream’s health after rain gardens are installed and are actively soaking up stormwater.

This pre-project check-up is complete and we have begun phase two, which is to build rain gardens in parks, schools, and street bump-outs in partnership with the City of Ann Arbor. Free assessments are also available to Mitchell neighbors to help them identify ways to capture rain water on their property. Examples include planting rain gardens, trees, and other deep-rooted native plants, using rain barrels, and changing the direction of their roof gutters.  The Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner is providing discounts to Mitchell residents who take classes from the County Master Rain Gardener Program, and the project will subsidize rain garden installation.

Miller Ave Rain Garden, Ann Arbor

While this project will beautify the neighborhood and protect its creek, some neighbors have raised concerns about the bump outs, anticipating that they could reduce parking availability and impact traffic. That’s why project partners are using proven methods for choosing criteria for the bump out locations. HRWC will present the plans to the neighborhood for input before they are finalized.

The Swifties are enthusiastic. Six have already taken the County’s master rain gardener classes. As a result, five private rain gardens have been created — see them featured in our Huron River Report, Spring 2016. And we’ve been getting thoughtful feedback and questions from neighbors, like these:

What about flooding? The existing stormwater drainage system is NOT being removed, so if it works for the neighborhood currently, it will continue to do so. The proposed rain gardens will be designed to capture and infiltrate the first inch of runoff. The rest of the overflow will go into the existing stormwater system. This design will improve water quality by filtering the initial runoff from small storms. There currently is no water quality treatment of stormwater runoff from the neighborhood.

Won’t the bump outs take away street parking? Once a preliminary design is drafted, we will present the proposed design and gather input from the neighborhood at a public meeting in April. Streets in the neighborhood are currently much wider than current design standards. However, if there are serious concerns about the loss of on-street parking, the design team will relocate rain gardens. There is quite a bit of flexibility in the placement of street-side rain gardens within the project.

Will they cause traffic congestion? The design team has many years of experience with street projects, including residential road bump outs. Maintaining efficient traffic flow is one of a number of design criteria that are being considered in drafting the plans. The team would like to hear about concerns at specific locations following the initial draft design so that they might alter the design.

Rain gardens seem complicated unless you are a gardener. Do I have to maintain the rain garden if it is on the street in front of my house? Once the gardens are built, they will be incorporated into the City’s Green Infrastructure Maintenance Program, which ensures that all Rain Gardens installed on City property (including the right-of-way area) are maintained, either by residents, volunteers, City/County staff or a contractor.

Award-winning rain garden
Becoming a rain gardener is easy!

As this project picks up speed we will update our project page. Here are links to more information:

Growing Green for Clean Streams in Swift Run Creek project

Swift Run Creek Report (great information on why the creek needs protection)

Ways to Capture Rainwater at Home

Learn more about using native plants and creating rain gardens at the Home, Garden & Lifestyle Show, March 18-20, at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds, Saline. HRWC and the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office will feature information and experts on rain gardens, native plants and shoreline best practices at our booth (E-169). Admission is $5. HRWC has a limited number of complimentary tickets available–please contact Pam Labadie,