The Potomac Highlands Watershed School 

PHWS Projects 2012

Musselman High School, Inwood, WV Rain Garden

Musselman Three Tiered Rain Garden



On April 20th, 2012, students from the W.E.T. Club (Watershed Environmental Team) and lead teacher Deb Stevens installed a three tiered rain garden and other Best Management Practices surrounding the band field.   This rain garden project was made possible thanks to generous support from the Canaan Valley Institute, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and National Fish and Wildlife Federation (NFWF).  CI's Ben Alexandro facilitated the process as Musselman students took a lead role in all aspects of this educational restoration project.

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The students of the W.E.T. Club noticed that the stormwater runoff from the band field, road, and newly constructed school building was creating an increasingly eroding gully around the band field.  Cacapon Institute (CI) worked with the W.E.T. Club to create a special Rain Garden Leadership Committee of twelve Potomac Headwaters Leaders of Watersheds to plan, design, and manage the installation of a rain garden. 
The rain garden leaders took measurements and analyzed the soil in the problem area. They decided they wanted to install three rain gardens in succession of each other to manage runoff.
The committee realized that the soil was mostly clay and would have to be amended with more permeable sand.  With the help of CI, they determined the materials needed to amend the soil using geometry and additional mathematic calculations.  These students designed the area and picked the native plants that would do best in the rain gardens while attracting wildlife.    The leaders reached out to the community to get involved in the project and donate support.  Berkley County businesses donated $500 and Domino's Pizza donated lunch for the day.  The Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital was also supportive as they have been in past projects.
One of the most dedicated leaders, Victor Faircloth, came with his dad and both donated their time to prep the area over spring break. They then sculpted three rain gardens with precision and mixed existing soil, topsoil, compost, and sand to increase infiltration. 
The work Victor and his dad did with the Bobcat already started to manage much of the rainwater before the rest of the W.E.T. Club even planted the area. Victor and his father had several tons of cobblestone donated and used them to make check dams between rain gardens to reduce erosion along the interconnecting drainage ditch. 
The rain garden committee worked hard to prepare for the April 20th planting day.  To keep the day organized, the committee arrived at 6:30am the morning of the event. They set out all the materials and prepared for the remaining 50 volunteers to arrive.  Head of Event Management and Coordination, Robert Hogan, Robert Storm, and Taylor Hamlin manned the registration table and facilitated the event as a whole.  Club members signed in, received wrist bands, and were broken into teams.  The students and CI staff gave each club member special instructions on the day’s activities and continued to educate the other members about the projects’ importance.  This event required particular oversight because the W.E.T. Club was also planting 70 trees with WV Chesapeake Bay Forester Herb Peddicord on the other side of the band field.  As Tree Planting Co-chairs, students Justin Myers and Ervin Barnes led the planting activity with half of the W.E.T. Club members.   Michael Butts, Austin Quaglio, Scott Clark and Kayla Greene led over thirty students in the rain garden project.
Austin Quaglio engaged local businesses in the community to deliver soil and mulch at little or no cost.  Top soil was added to the three rain gardens. Each section of the rain garden had a team and a team leader that sculpted the shape of the garden.  They graded each garden to make a lower area that would temporarily pool water and a berm in front of each check dam.
Kristin Mielcarek of Canaan Valley Institute generously picked up the plants from Environmental Concern Nursery and delivered them to Musselman High School.  Before being planted, the plants were placed out in the areas where they would be planted.  The W.E.T. Club had already flagged the location to plant each species the day before based on shade tolerance, moisture preference, height, spread, and bloom time.  The rain garden committee then led over 30 volunteers in the planting of over 170 wildflowers and shrubs in the gardens. Kayla Green (right) led her team in planting the second section of rain garden. W.E.T. Club students showed great leadership skills as they led and managed the entire event. 
(Journal photo by Samantha Cronk) Musselman High School W.E.T. Club leaders were interviewed by local newspaper reporter Samantha Cronk as they led the planting activities.  They explained in a journal article (link to that adding plant life to the school’s rain garden will help control the standing water that accumulates on the school’s property. Based on assessments of previous projects and deer monitoring projects the students had executed that year, it was clear that all native plants need to be protected from white tailed deer browse and deer rub for there to be any hope of the plants’ survival.  
The W.E.T. Club installed welded woven wire fencing around each section of rain garden as the last of the plants were mulched. The fence was installed and secured to the ground via posts and rebar with zip ties.  Gates were installed to allow future maintenance.  Areas with gaps near the ground were covered by chicken wire.
Cacapon Institute would like to thank Kristin Mielcarek of the Canaan Valley Institute for assisting in the rain garden construction.  Canaan Valley’s support and Kristin’s generous plant delivery made the project the large success that it was. 
Near the rain garden, a large area of yard had been eroded from vehicles driving over it. The W.E.T. Club used the turf removed from the rain garden area to fix this pollution hot spot.  The rest of the bare depression was filled with left over topsoil and reseeded.  The maintenance staff at the school fenced off the area to prevent further vehicle traffic.  By May 2012, the area was green, growing and more aesthetically pleasing. This small extra project not only found a use for the extra soil material and turf, but also improved the water quality of the Mill Creek watershed. 
After the first large rain, it was clear that the rain gardens were accepting and managing a large amount of stormwater runoff.  Some routine maintenance will be required, especially after large storm events.
Thanks to the hard work and leadership of the W.E.T. Club, this three tiered rain garden project was a huge success.  The ever deepening gully near the band field is now a beautiful stormwater management demonstration project that will educate students and clean our water for years to come.