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During times of high runoff, this drain allows excess water to flow away. The grate shown here prevents leaves and larger debris from entering the stormwater system below.

Garden St. and Ellis St. Rain Garden

Where is this located? It’s at the three-way corner of Ellis, Garden, and Champion Streets.

What’s special about this place? Major pedestrian safety and road improvements at this intersection were combined with stormwater improvements. This is the largest engineered rain garden in downtown. Adjacent to this facility are three other smaller rain gardens – two at the bottom of Garden Street and one at the bottom of Ellis Street – which collect street runoff and then send it to the larger facility.

About Rain Gardens

rain garden is a bowl-shaped garden that collects, absorbs, and filters the rainwater that runs off hard surfaces including parking lots, driveways, sidewalks, lawns, and roofs. They provide on-site cleaning of stormwater by using special soil mixtures and low-maintenance plants that soak up runoff. The soil mixes used in rain gardens are selected to allow water to soak in rapidly, treat runoff, and support plant growth. Hardy, often native, plants are carefully selected for each site, including wildflowers, grasses, rushes, ferns, shrubs, and even small trees. These plants can have the added benefit of attracting pollinators, providing habitat for beneficial insects and birds, adding beauty, and improving neighboring property values.

Rain gardens can be small and home-made, or they can be engineered with specific materials to be highly effective. Home-made rain gardens are usually applied in smaller, residential systems working to intercept runoff that would otherwise flow onto streets. Engineered rain gardens are a type of bioretention basin and are sized for specific water quality treatment and flow control capacity that includes designed soil mixes and, often, under-drains and control structures. All the rain gardens highlighted on these tours are engineered bioretention facilities.

Water Quality Benefit: Rain gardens can capture sediment and bacteria, capture oil, pesticides, and fertilizers, and use their mulch layer to bind-up dissolved metals. Plant roots also are host to diverse microbial and fungal populations that filter pollution using biological processes.

Water Quantity Benefit: Special soil mixtures are chosen to allow water to soak into the ground. Roots break up the soil so water can soak into the ground more easily. By absorbing runoff from hard surfaces, rain gardens reduce flooding on neighboring property, reduce erosion in streams, and may recharge local groundwater.

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Drains .64 acres or 1/2 city block.

Where does this stormwater come from? The stormwater at this site comes from Ellis Street.

Where does this stormwater flow next? Stormwater from this site flows through pipes under Ellis to Whatcom Creek.