Friends of the Rappahannock worked with the City of Fredericksburg Parks and Recreation Department and local student volunteers to do a hefty maintenance project at a park in downtown Fredericksburg.

This project was led by Phil Cole, an environmental geology major at the University of Mary Washington and an intern with Friends of the Rappahannock (FOR). Phil has worked with FOR on a variety of projects at our nature preserve on the Rappahannock River in Fredericksburg and wanted to take the lead on a project that benefited the local community as well.

The rain garden at Maury Park in downtown Fredericksburg was installed by FOR and the City of Fredericksburg in 2013 as a demonstration project to treat stormwater runoff from the adjacent basketball court and field house building. These areas are known as impervious surfaces which do not allow for precipitation to infiltrate into the soils and vegetation and become stormwater runoff when it rains. This runoff carries with it all kinds of pollutants and can cause erosion in larger storm events.

Rain gardens are a type of green infrastructure and best management practice used to treat stormwater runoff before it enters storm drains, streams, and rivers. By directing stormwater to a rain garden, it has a chance to settle and naturally infiltrate into the soil which acts as a sponge and a filter. The water will eventually return to the ground water or be absorbed by the plants and released into the atmosphere through a process called evapotranspiration.

While these practices may look like simple gardens, they are in fact a well planned best management practice, often times designed and approved by an engineer. They are designed to require minimal maintenance but every once in a while they will need some TLC or potentially an overhaul.

Phil and his team were not dissuaded by the 95 degree temperatures. Seven volunteers joined Phil, FOR Programs Manager Bryan Hofmann, Ben Raterman from the Virginia Master Naturalists, and staff from  the City of Fredericksburg Parks and Recreation department to overhaul the rain garden. The garden area was meticulously liberated from encroaching weeds, dead plants removed, healthy plants trimmed and pruned, and all bare soil areas were re-mulched to protect the health of the plants. Following the completion of the mulching, volunteers added two tons of river jack cobble stones to the garden to slow and dissipate incoming runoff to prevent additional erosion and damage to the rain garden.

What a day. All the volunteers worked hard and made the project an overwhelming success.

Bryan Hoffman

Programs Manager