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Engaging Young Community Members in Richmond

Thanks to funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the chat-rain-garden-1Alliance has partnered with Church Hill Activities and Tutoring (CHAT), the Center for Watershed Protection and Sustainable Chesapeake to engage local youth in integrating edible gardens with stormwater reduction practices in the East End of Richmond. CHAT recruits local high school students and college interns to install these gardens and learn the benefits of stormwater management in their neighborhood.

In May, the group planted an edible rain garden at the CHAT facility to help provide locally grown, fresh produce in an urban food desert while also reducing stormwater runoff flowing into the City of Richmond’s combined sewer system and Gillies Creek. The edible rain garden concept is based on flood irrigation practices and was designed using depressed rain chat-rain-garden-2garden beds in between raised vegetable garden beds which act as the water conveyance system to the vegetables. This project also included the installation of a large cistern to collect and store stormwater from the roof of the facility for irrigation of the garden.

The group expanded the concept to the community by installing two additional rain gardens for a resident in November. These two gardens treat stormwater discharged from half of the house, disconnecting it from the combined sewer system and reducing the homeowners’ stormwater utility fee. A fig tree and blueberry shrubs were planted in the gardens, ensuring the homeowner will have access to fresh fruit, as well.

The partnership utilized the Alliance’s Riverwise Communities Program fchat-rain-garden-3or the basis of
these projects and plans to expand this program to include how to’s for edible rain gardens and cisterns for food production. Over the two year partnership, the team has reduced nutrients and sediments going into Gillies Creek, the James River, and the Chesapeake Bay and engaged young community members who are now motivated and educated about how to promote stormwater management to reduce pollution and improve water quality in local streams and rivers.  We hope to continue this partnership and use these projects as a foundation for expanding the program throughout the East End and in other communities.

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Liz Chudoba Water Quality Program Manager, Virginia Office

Liz is the Alliance's Water Quality Program Manager. She manages the Chesapeake Monitoring Cooperative partnership, and the Alliance's RiverTrends program.

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