A raingarden makes a big difference!

Chrissy McLeanAll, Bravo Team, Youth Programs

Each year, Bravo Team studies both maritime expedition skills and our marine environment. As we build our knowledge of the Salish Sea, we consider service projects that we could complete to contribute to a healthy marine environment. 

Like many classes, learning this year was primarily online. We began learning about the Salish Sea in the fall through a series of small lessons. Some of our favorite tools were watching Salish Sea Wild videos from the series created by the SeaDoc Society. These videos were an engaging way for students to learn about the Salish Sea through the eyes of a wildlife veterinarian. Students also created Google slide presentations on the Salish Sea which they presented to their classmates. 

Next we began generating a list of questions we had about the Salish Sea, like “How do we know if the Salish Sea is healthy?” “How is climate change affecting the Salish Sea?”, “What government agencies are responsible for protecting the Salish Sea?” and “Do humans have positive effects on the Salish Sea?”

From there, we chose to focus on climate change and positive human impacts. During online learning, we explored and reviewed how the carbon cycle works and how human impacts have affected environmental carbon. 

As spring approached, and hybrid learning became a possibility, we began to look for a hands-on service project we could participate in safely. In partnership with our local WSU extension, we identified a raingarden next to our NW Maritime Center campus that was not functioning well due to lack of maintenance. We decided to take on this project as a group, identifying that rain gardens are an effective way to filter and trap pollutants before they enter the Salish Sea and that they provide a carbon sink in the form of plants and healthy soil communities. 

We worked with our WSU partner, Bob Simmons, to learn more about how rain gardens work, their effectiveness, and how they are planned and constructed. We then studied the plants we will put into our rain garden, toured raingardens in Point Hudson and worked on a planting plan.

When we could finally start meeting in person, we took on the physical work of rehabilitating the garden. Over four class periods, we removed the sod and weeds, added new bioretention soil, carefully selected plants, and finally spread a layer of mulch. It was so exciting to see it all come together and to hear the compliments and support of people walking by (you can visit the raingarden at the corner of Water and Monroe streets). And it was really fun to be able to work together on a tangible hands on project. 

In the words of our students, “The raingarden benefits the health of the Salish Sea because it cleans water so that it doesn’t pollute the ocean. Even though it is one small step, many steps can make a big difference.”

This project would not have happened without the support of Washington State University Extension (Jefferson and Thurston County), Jefferson County Marine Resources Committee, City of Port Townsend, Port Townsend Main Street Program, North Olympic Salmon Coalition, Port Townsend School District, and Northwest Maritime Center.