Mount Joy volunteers build rain garden to reduce pollution

Scout Ross Cray packs the soil around a new plant, putting the finishing touches on Mount Joy's community rain garden. (K. Scott Kreider)

When it comes to conserving environmental resources like clean water, the community of Mount Joy Borough proved it knows how to work together.

"It was like they had done this 10 times before," public works inspector Ken Barto said, "Everybody just knew what to do."

On Saturday about 30 Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, along with about 20 other community volunteers, helped to install a 32-by-52-foot rain garden behind the Mount Joy borough municipal building. The rain garden, which is fully funded by grants, is part of a public education program to raise awareness about water conservation and the harmful effects of runoff pollutants on the county's waterways and the Chesapeake Bay beyond.

With 750 plants that needed planting, Scoutmaster Jay Shank said he was sure the work would take most of the day to finish, but before he knew it, they were finishing up their work at 11 in the morning.

Scouts worked to earn their citizenship badges and water badges by planting trees and grasses, moving boulders, and digging holes for the plantings.

"It was so well organized," assistant Scoutmaster Steve Cray said, "and the way people worked together-we had so many different things going on at one time. It was really kind of amazing to watch."

Cray said that the project is more than just a way to bring the community together, it's also a valuable way for the community to invest in their environment. "They're planting something that goes beyond just throwing a few plants in. It's a space that people will be able to enjoy and see it grow."

The borough's new rain garden will collect runoff from the municipal building, the neighboring property, and part of the parking lot behind the borough office. After a heavy rain the runoff will pool in the rain garden, where the plants and soil will naturally filter the water before it makes its way back to Little Chiques Creek.

"The longer it takes to drain the better, because more of the pollutants are being filtered through the soil," Gavin Witmeyer, owner of Integrity Land Works and a partner of the borough for the rain garden project, said. "All the plants are native - 100 percent. It's just a matter of using plants that will take wet periods as well as dry periods."

Witmeyer helped to run educational rain garden workshops at the borough two weeks ago along with David Christian and Associates in Mount Joy. As a result, he said he has already had several meetings with people who are interested in building their own rain gardens.

"The response has been phenomenal," Barto said, "We've had five or six calls so far from people who are starting their own rain gardens."

Barto said he's hoping they can ride that momentum into another possible water conservation project. Barto said that the borough recently applied for another $23,000 grant to run a rain barrel program. If they receive that grant, Barto said, the borough would purchase a large number of rain barrels to sell, and run similar educational workshops to promote the use of rain barrels. Residents will be able to purchase rain barrels from the borough, and after they've properly installed them beneath their downspouts, the borough will give them a 50 percent rebate on their rain barrel purchase.

After the work was completed Saturday, some community members and borough staffers took a moment to soak in the accomplishment.

"It was an awesome project," council president Chris Metzler said. "It's a great educational opportunity for the community and a way that government can get involved in something that can help educate, beautify the area, and do some good to the environment as well. It was nice to see it all come together."

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