New rain garden and outdoor classroom at Wolf Creek
Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery has completed its new onsite rain garden and outdoor classroom, a project that began in late March. This project was no easy feat, requiring substantial assistance from partnerships with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Wolf Creek Dam and Powerhouse, and the University of Kentucky Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering.
A rain garden is a shallow depression, planted with native plants and grasses, which is designed to capture runoff from nearby impervious surfaces. These areas mimic the layered conditions of a forest floor, which naturally filters pollutants from water. Rain gardens are extremely beneficial to water quality. In addition, they reduce the speed of runoff, which promotes the infiltration of runoff into the groundwater supply, and reduces erosion.
Historically, heavy rainfall on impervious surfaces such as rooftops and parking lots had severely affected the hatchery’s nature trail, as well as the adjacent green spaces. The runoff from these surfaces had caused significant erosion to the soil in these areas. Because of this erosion, the trail had experienced significant erosion, causing the terrain to become difficult and even treacherous at times. The rain garden was installed in the direct path of runoff from the parking lot, allowing a large portion of this graywater to be captured, and the remainder slowed, thereby reducing erosion of the trail and improving water quality as it collects into nearby creeks.
Once the initial construction was complete, staff bought 100 Kentucky native pollinator-preferred plant species from a local nursery, using funds from a PRIDE grant awarded to the Friends of Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery, Inc. A local Girl Scout troop helped staff install the plants in the garden basin.
The estimated cost of the project was more than $10,000. However, through partnerships, grants, and donated materials, equipment, and labor, Wolf Creek completed this project for about one-tenth of this estimated cost.
The benefits of the project are far-reaching. This garden will improve water quality and groundwater infiltration, and reduce erosion. It also will provide critical habitat for pollinators such as birds, insects, bats, bees and butterflies. Furthermore, the outdoor classroom area upslope of the rain garden will provide a valuable resource to the Environmental Education team, as it will be used for special programs and events in addition to regularly scheduled school group tours.
Wolf Creek has planned several installments for the next phase of the outdoor classroom, including: a box turtle enclosure; a raised bed with sensory plants; a compost installment; additional seating; and an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant sidewalk.