Community Comes Together to Create Rain Garden at Burcham and Park Lake

Monday, August 8, 2016, 7:00 am
By: 
Paige Filice

Photo: Shaemus Kermiet

A once dandelion and grass-filled traffic circle at the intersection of Burcham Drive and Park Lake Road is now a pollinator oasis featuring Michigan native wildflowers and a stone filled depression, soaking in and filtering rainwater that would have previously washed onto the street and into storm sewers.

"Community", "passion", "generosity", "resourcefulness", "innovative", and  "ecological" are just a few of the many words LeRoy Harvey, Recycling and Energy Coordinator for Meridian Township, used to describe Hidden River Rain Garden, the newly landscaped traffic circle.

Hidden River Rain Garden features Michigan native plants including fragrant sumac and butterfly weed. The concrete used on the site is recycled and repurposed. Harvey was quick to point out that a traffic circle rain garden is not traditional. Being located in the middle of a roadway meant many site challenges; the plants had to be deer, drought, and heat resistant and have a high salt tolerance, as well as be relatively low maintenance and have curb appeal.

The idea of having a rain garden located in the middle of a traffic circle is innovative in and of itself, but this project is unique because it brought together community members, neighborhood associations, and public, private, and non-profit organizations. The project began in 2014 when a concerned resident contacted Meridian Township and suggested something more visually appealing should be located near the roadway. Marth Wyatt of the Meridian Community Development and Planning Department sketched an initial drawing, but there was no funding available for the project.

Harvey sought additional ideas and expertise from community members. “The response was encouraging, and interest grew from an initial email in 2014. Residents, local businesses, neighborhood associations, a student club, and experts in the landscaping business got involved with the project and provided physical help, materials, maintenance, and financial assistance,” he said.

Some of the experts involved with making Hidden River Rain Garden successful include Art Cameron, Director of MSU Horticulture Gardens, who provided expertise on planting requirements and assisted with gathering plant material. Alicia Bleil, Owner of Greenspace Design and Contracting, refined the initial landscape design and helped lead work crews. Theresa Lark, Executive Director of Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council, assisted as a fiduciary for the project and obtained a grant to help offset the costs of the project. Multiple landscape and nursery businesses in the region donated materials including Hammond Farms Landscape Supply, Meridian Landscape Supply, Michigan Demolition, VanAtta’s Greenhouse and Flower Shop, and Wildtype Design, Native Plants, and Seed.

“Without the support of the residents, neighborhood groups, and community partners this project could not be a success,” said Harvey. Over 70 people have volunteered on work days and/or assisted financially with the project. While the planting is not complete, the majority of plants and materials have been installed. During the “Great Drought of 2016,” Ingham County Land Bank and the Garden Project helped obtain and refill a 250-gallon tank to help water the new plantings. Once established, Hidden River Rain Garden is designed to be low maintenance with minimal weeding and mulching

To learn more about the Hidden River Rain Garden and how you can help visit www.midmeac.org or contact LeRoy Harvey at harvey@meridian.mi.us. Additional information about the history of the project, funding organizations, and site design of the rain garden can be found at http://recycle.meridian.mi.us/roundabout. To learn more about the benefits of rain gardens and how you can install one in your yard read this East Lansing Info article Digging In: Rain Garden