Digging the school day
Students help mitigate stormwater
Holy Trinity Catholic School fourth-grader Jack Gioiosa lives on a farm in Mill Run.
On Tuesday, he got to show off his competence at the kind of work that farmers do when he and his classmates at the school near St. Therese of the Child Jesus Catholic Church planted flowers, grasses, shrubs and trees in a rain garden that was recently constructed by a city contractor at the lower end of the parking lot.
Jack set to work on the trees — “the heavier plants” — because he likes the physical labor, working with his hands, getting dirty and digging, he said.
“I’m used to it,” he said.
By contrast, classmate Gabby Earnest found it a little difficult to handle a shovel — but, like Jack, she doesn’t mind getting dirty.
She enjoyed planting purple flowers, she said. It felt a little more free than working on books in school.
Twenty-five students and adult volunteers placed all 500 plants in an hour and a half — about half the time the school had allotted for the work, according to rain garden designer Chris Foster, a landscape architect with Stiffler McGraw and Associates, and Chelsey Ergler, coordinator of the Intergovernmental Stormwater Committee, of which the city is a member.
Water from about 50 acres travels down Wopsononock Avenue or over the parking lot into garden areas or into broad channels lined with smooth stones the size of eggs that allows some of the water to percolate into the ground.
The rest runs into a lower section of garden and then into a second rain garden constructed by the city last year on a triangular traffic island, according to Foster. Any excess enters a perforated pipe that conveys it into the stormwater sewer, Foster said.
The plantings set by the children Tuesday are all native species and include iris, spiderwort, coneflower, turtlehead, switchgrass and phlox, the flowers and grasses; inkberry, hydrangea and sweetspire, the shrubs; along with redbud, serviceberry and arbor vitae, the trees, Foster said.
Some of the plants prefer a wet environment but can handle drought, while others mainly look nice, he said.
Kiosks will be set next to each of the rain gardens explaining the projects, which are part of the ISC’s response to increasingly strict stormwater treatment regulations, Foster said.
Maines Engineering of Tyrone was the prime contractor for the recently constructed garden, with G&R Excavating and Demolition of Tyrone as subcontractor.
The border stones between the rock channels and garden areas were salvaged from the foundation of a demolished building, Foster said.
A $55,000 Department of Environmental Protection Stormwater Implementation Grant to the city helped pay for the $80,000 cost of the project, according to Foster and City Clerk Linda Rickens Schellhammer.
Also participating in Tuesday’s planting were representatives from Stiffler McGraw, the ISC, school faculty, parish staff, the Blair County Conservation District and the city Public Works Department.
“These are great days,” Foster said.
It was mostly about the students, however.
“The kids came out full of energy and ready to go,” Ergler said.
How did the job make Jack, the fourth-grader, feel?
“Happy,” he said.
Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.