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A (rain) garden in the park -- DL to create several rain gardens in City Park

Detroit Lakes planners had intended to create a rain garden in City Park anyway, but when the Festival of Birds organizers wanted to help, things started falling into place.

Not to mention the Capital for a Day celebration happened to fall one day before the rain garden was to be planted.

After Urban Conservation Specialist Gregg Thompson spoke in Detroit Lakes last year about rain gardens, the city decided it was time to take the lead and create some of its own.

"This is a start," Park Supervisor Tom Gulon said, as his crew worked on digging out the area north of the Pavilion that will house the first rain garden. "Hopefully, it catches on."

"I see the city parks and waterways as the jewel of our city," Public Works Director Brad Green said. "The long range goal is to improve these jewels whenever possible."

Several locations throughout City Park have been identified for future rain gardens. Gulon said those sites are low areas that are usually too wet to mow anyway.

"It seems only natural to restore these areas back to native planting benefiting water quality, appearance and wildlife," Green said.

The initial rain garden north of the Pavilion is being dug down 18 inches. Once the garden is dug out, crews will replace the area with 12 inches of 80 percent beach sand and 20 percent leaf mulch.

Native grasses and plants will then be planted in the area.

"People think weeds, but it's not. There are beautiful native grasses people can plant," Gulon said.

The city crew is preparing the ground this week. A ribbon cutting for the rain garden will be May 14, Detroit Lakes' Capital for a Day, at 8:30 a.m. The next day, the birders will take the next step.

To help with the planting of those native plants, some people coming for the Festival of Birds signed up to take part. Gulon said there are nine people signed up to help, along with some master gardeners and festival organizers as well.

One Master Gardener that has helped along the entire way is Sally Hausken, he added. Regardless of what he needed, Hausken was always there to help.

"Sally's been a great help. She's been a great quarterback for me," he said.

The Festival of Birds committee members decided to pair up with the city to help create the flagstaff rain garden, Chamber Tourism Director Cleone Stewart said.

The festival is paying for Thompson to come to Detroit Lakes and help with the rain garden.

"What we wanted was an opportunity for folks to register and learn how to improve the water quality in their own yard or in their city by how do you actually create a rain garden," Stewart said.

"Sometimes you get handouts on how to do it, but I think if you actually get the hands-on it makes a whole lot more sense and you're able to take it back and do it yourself."

And there's also the benefit to Detroit Lakes' water quality, she added.

There is still room for anyone interested in helping plant the rain garden. Call the Chamber at 847-9202 for more information or to sign up.

"We plan to expand on creative ways to treat run-off that benefit all aspects of our town," Green said. "This will help reduce our carbon imprint with less to mow and improve the appearance of our parks, attract more birds and more tourists."

Another attraction for tourists, as well as residents, will be the 12-foot tree stump that was left in the midst of the rain garden. Gulon and Green said they are looking into having a chainsaw artist make a design in the permanent stump.

Now with the addition of this rain garden and future ones, oil, grease, pet waste and other pollutants that go directly into the waterway will be filtered.

The improvements will not only help the City Park and water, it will be an attraction for those spending time in the area.

"It's about awareness of the environment and what we're doing to it," Gulon said. "We have to start somewhere."