New Rain Garden at Delta Secondary

Category: District

This article was originally published in the Delta Optimist on April 18.

Delta Secondary students’ vision to make a positive difference to their environment has led to the creation of a rain garden at the school. The new garden will absorb about 500,000 litres per year of rainwater runoff from the school roof, that used to go down storm sewers and into Chillukthan Slough. This rainwater resource will now instead be used to grow a garden that beautifies the school, provides bird and pollinator habitat, and replenishes groundwater.

Members of the school’s Environmental Club, led by educators Graham Harkley, Paige Collings and Natasha Fletcher, collaborated with the Delta School District’s Grounds Department and Deborah Jones of Cougar Creek Streamkeepers (North Delta/Surrey BC), to identify a location, create a design, source funding and plant the garden.

A shady area of patchy grass on the north side of the school was selected as the ideal location.  Three adjacent roof downspouts could easily and safely be disconnected from the municipal storm sewer system and diverted into this space, which slopes gently away from the school.

During Spring Break, the district’s Grounds Department prepared the site by removing the turf, excavating a swale and building a soil berm along the downhill edge. They also repurposed the trunks of dying cedar trees to create informal seating for students. The trunks also act as barriers to hold soil in place and, as they decay over many years, are a slow-release fertilizer for the garden. After adding fresh soil, large boulders and gravel (for aesthetics and to prevent erosion in areas where water may flow), the area was ready for planting.

Around 20 students showed up on Planting Day on April 5 to help plant shade-tolerant shrubs, ferns and groundcovers to complete the rain garden.

“Many of the schools in North Delta have a rain garden,” says Streamkeeper Deb Jones, “so it’s great to see this simple green technology being put to use in South Delta too – first at Cliff Drive Elementary in Tsawwassen, and now at Delta Secondary in Ladner. The school district’s Grounds Department chose a perfect location with plenty of capacity for sponging up a good portion of school roof runoff, despite Ladner’s high water table.

“In North Delta, rain gardens are crucial for helping replenish the groundwater that keeps our salmon streams flowing during dry summer months. In Ladner, the big issue isn’t salmon streams, but saltwater intrusion. The more rainwater we can safely infiltrate down into the ground, the more resistance there is to the saltwater wedge.”

Environmental Club sponsor Graham Harkley adds, “There’s a lot of negative news about climate change and I think our young people are feeling pretty anxious about it. The rain garden is a very positive activity that the students can feel good about and it will hopefully motivate them to get involved in other ways to help slow down global warming.

“On behalf of the Environmental Club, I would like to extend our thanks to the district’s Grounds Department for their hard work in preparing the site, to Deborah Jones for her expertise and advice in designing the rain garden, and to Be the Change Earth Alliance and the Nature Trust of BC Rain Garden Fund for funding this important project.”