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Glenview rain gardens help properties avoid flooding

GLENVIEW — After 4 inches of rain heavily flooded parts of east Glenview on Wednesday, Cathy and John Taylor owned a side yard filled with murky storm water.

But they weren’t handwringing homeowners— the Taylors had planned it that way.

In 2008, they chose to install a 60-by 20-foot rain garden, much resembling a natural prairie.

“In big storm events like this one, you’ll find no standing water in our rain garden after 24 to 48 ours,” Taylor said.

“In other yards without rain gardens, water can sit for four to five days.”

By design, the gardens absorb rainwater runoff from impervious area such as roofs, driveways and grass-compacted lawns.

The water then percolates into the ground soil that filters and cleanses it from pollutants and fertilizers before reaching a nearby creek, river or pond.

In Glenview, the West Fork of the North Branch of the Chicago River is the mid-town natural drain way.

Similar to natural prairies, rains gardens grow deep-rooted prairie plants and shrubs that increase soil structure and water absorption.

The Taylor’s full garden contained 24 plants that the village of Glenview suggested to grow, such as smooth astor, blue flag iris and Ohio goldenrod.

While a rain garden’s main purpose is to filter rainwater, some flooding is decreased because runoff is not rushing over streets and parking lots straight in overwhelmed rivers and storm water sewers.

“We’ve never had water in our house since we put in the rain garden. It’s not because of the rain garden, but it helps,” Cathy said.

The home across the street from Taylor on the 0-700 block of Indian Road, for instance, was surrounded by water and had been unoccupied since the last flooding storms on April 28.

At the Taylor home, roof downspouts fed rain water into barrels and rock gardens below.

Some were connected to slow-percolating pipes that released water into the rain garden and garden beds.

The Taylor driveway also was constructed with permeable bricks for better water percolation.

“The water doesn’t rush out into the street,” John said.

“Rather than fighting rain water runoff, we’re trying to work with it,” Cathy added.

The couple’s rain garden is part of the village’s effort to control storm runoff.

Any resident can propose a rain garden and be eligible for a village grant of 50 percent cost of the project up to $1,000.

Residents have to sign an agreement to maintain the garden for five years and monitor its progress.

Robyn Flakne, natural resources manager for Glenview, said in addition to filtering water of urban pollutants, rain gardens cool water before reaching natural bodies of water.

“Water gets hot on pavements and water temperatures are a big part of what kind of organisms live there,” Flakne said.

“Living organisms need as much natural rainwater as possible.”

On widespread flood control, Flakne said many more rain gardens would be needed in Glenview, but small scale projects on home properties have been effective.

Thirty-one rain gardens have been constructed in the village reimbursement program.

In 2010, 20 homeowners responded to a village survey on their rain gardens.

“They said, yes, rain gardens alleviated flooding problems,” she said.

In May, the village built an urban rain garden at Waukegan Road and Dewes Street, replacing a patch of grass.

The demonstration project was developed during Glenview’s Waukegan Road Corridor Planning Committee process.

The public land had been identified as one of several “quick-win” solutions recommended by the village board’s Storm Water Task Force.

The 1,200-square-foot parcel was chosen because of its location next to a busy intersection.

“It is hoped residents can see how it works and be encouraged to install rain gardens on their own properties,” stated a village report.

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