Saving Water in Big Stacy

City opens public first rain garden

Saving Water in Big Stacy
Courtesy of city of Austin

This week in Big Stacy Park, the city of Austin opened its first public rain garden and it's encouraging residents to build their own.

A rain garden is a bowl-shaped garden with lots of loose soil and native plants, designed to absorb and filter run-off storm water. That saves on the need to use fresh water for irrigation, cuts down on erosion, and keeps the nutrients in the soil.

Council Member Chris Riley, Assistant City Manager Howard Lazarus, and Watershed Protection Director Victoria Li along with the Travis Heights Elementary fourth-grade class celebrated the new garden Thursday morning with a wildflower seed scattering. The project was a collaboration between the Watershed Protection Department, the Parks Department, and the Public Works Department.

Why Big Stacy Park? "The creek was badly degraded and badly eroding" said Watershed Protection spokesperson Stephanie Lott. "We also wanted to treat the storm water that was going into the creek to improve the quality of the water." Actually, most of the pollution in streams, rivers, and lakes comes from storm water. The rain garden in Big Stacy Park is there to filter filth out of the storm water coming in off the streets and will provide clean water for Blunn Creek. The rain garden stabilized the creek banks, saving a pedestrian bridge and a 200-year-old oak tree.

All the plants in the new rain garden are either native or adapted plants. As Lotts pointed out, the flowers "need to be able to take lots of sun and they also have to be able to deal with occasionally being flooded." Native plants are the best choice for a rain garden because they have been living in the same soil for thousands of years and therefore don't need extra help surviving the storms and possible flooding. And because they were here before even we were, they don't need any nasty pesticides. Basically, these flowers know the drill better than any of us.

The city plans to build more rain gardens downstream in Big Stacy Park, Pease Park, and later Boggy Creek. After going out to enjoy the city's new rain garden, you could always build your own. Visit the city's website for landscaping tips and advice on picking the right kind of plants.

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