New rain gardens collect, filter runoff at Union Church

by Joni Astrup
Associate editor
Two rain gardens have been installed this fall at Union Congregational Church, a United
Church of Christ (UCC) in Elk River.

Nick Kranz of Klein Landscaping began work on one of the Union Church rain gardens as Bill Bronder of SWCD watched.

They will collect and filter runoff from the roof and the parking lot.
Both gardens are planted with native plants and flowers like black-eyed Susan, butterfly weed and pale purple coneflower. “It’s a beautiful plan,” Andy Oman said of the garden plantings. Oman is a member of Union Church’s Green Team.
One of the rain gardens is in front of the church at 1118 Fourth St. The other is near the church parking lot at the corner of Fourth and Norfolk.
Oman said they hope to have a dedication for the rain gardens in the spring.
The rain gardens were installed by Klein Landscaping in St. Cloud and are being paid for by the Sherburne County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). The SWCD has approved a project cost of no more than $13,844. The money came from funds collected as a result of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. The amendment was passed by state voters in 2008 and increased the general sales and use tax rate by three-eighths of 1 percent to enhance Minnesota’s land and water conservation, arts and culture.
Bill Bronder, SWCD interim district manager, said rain gardens decrease the amount of sediment and pollutants in surface waters like lakes and streams. In the case of Union Church, the rain gardens filter runoff that would have gone directly to the Mississippi River.
The rain gardens are designed to hold the runoff from a rainfall and allow it to infiltrate into the soil. They also help filter out pollutants such as fertilizer, pesticides, oil, heavy metals and other chemicals that are carried with the rainwater that washes off roofs and parking lots. Many pollutants will break down in the soil over time. Phosphorous and nitrogen in the runoff, for instance, are used by the plants in the rain garden.

A purple dome aster bloomed in one of the new rain gardens.
Workers from Klein Landscaping installed a retaining wall in the rain garden in front of the church.

The rain garden in front of the church also has a filter to trap sediment running off the paved driveway. The church will clean the filter monthly. Union Church has also agreed to maintain the rain gardens for a minimum of 10 years.
Bronder said the Union Church is a good site for a rain garden because of its high visibility. It also fits with the work of the church’s Green Team.
“We’re hoping it will encourage other landowners and homeowners to consider something like this,” Bronder said.
Tiffany Determan of SWCD said homeowners can use rain gardens to catch and clean up water running off roofs or through yards. Rain gardens can be planted with natives or any type of plants as long as they are tolerant of the conditions of a rain garden. “It’s great for habitat for pollinators,” she said.
She said rain gardens are a beautiful and effective way to create a better environment.
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One of the finished rain gardens outside Union Church.
Joe Pappenfus and Nick Kranz of Klein Landscaping cut the curb while installing one of the rain gardens.
The new rain gardens are located at Union Church, 1118 Fourth St., Elk River.