New large-scale ‘Rain Garden’ cultivated in Lents

Take a look, and see how much pavement they ripped up in a church’s parking lot, replacing it with a garden. It’s not their first time doing this …

As he plants native species in this new “Rain Garden”, Kyle Eilenfeldt of Depave says he’s been working with this project since its inception in February.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Although relatively small in number, the parishioners of Pilgrim Lutheran Church in the Lents neighborhood of outer East Portland have made big storm water disposal improvements to their church’s exterior areas.

> See the results of their first, similar project last year: CLICK HERE.

Depave volunteers Katie Rawson and Brynn Eissler flank Alys Allwardt, as they take a break during their “planting party”.

“Ours is the church you can see on SE 92nd Avenue, a block north of Holgate Boulevard,” explained Alys Allwardt at the “planting party” on October 18. “We’ve taken out a section of our parking lot that doesn’t get used much, and replaced it with a ‘rain garden’.”

The idea of creating a “rain garden”, Allwardt explained, is to improve the drainage.

“Rainwater on asphalt doesn’t drain into the soil, and it all goes into the sewer. But, by installing this Rain Garden and bio-swale, it saves us all money in the long run,” Allwardt added. “This is because the City of Portland doesn’t have to build more sewer capacity to handle rainwater run-off , because it drains into the soil and percolates into the groundwater that way.”

The project started with ripping out about 1,600 ft.² of pavement over the summer months. “We did this with the help of DEPAVE,” Allwardt told East Portland News.

Volunteers keep planting, as a rain squall passes over the new Pioneer Lutheran Church “Rain Garden”.

“About 50 volunteers helped out, arriving from all over the city, to dig up big squares – they call them ‘cookies’ – of asphalt,” Allwardt remarked. “That part of the job took less than two hours.”

Shoveling in the soil and amenities was done by a smaller crew of volunteers, over a period of months, from August until October.

Nathan Engkjer holds his son, Huck Engkjer, as he says he’s eager to get back to work.

“We are planting approximately 600 native plants,” Allwardt pointed out. “And we have ‘planted’ an old piano’s harp sounding board – and three decorative landscaping rocks.”

Funding for the project was provided by a grant from the East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District – a governmental agency what also sponsors “Rain Garden” classes, many of which are held at the church.

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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