High school rain garden project receives a boost

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This is the area where the first rain garden will be created behind the Performing Arts Center at the high school.


By Ted Pennekamp


There has been some good news recently for the rain garden project underway at Prairie du Chien High School.

Teacher Diane Colburn said that because of the article published in the Courier Press on Dec. 11, a donor has come forward to help with the project.

“A very generous donor called me,” said Colburn. “All the topsoil, rocks and even trees, if we need, will be donated for the landscaping project(s).”

Gale and Cheryl Beneker will be donating black dirt, decorative rock and birch trees to landscape the project.

Gale and Cheryl are 1964 Prairie du Chien High School graduates who have lived near Prairie du Chien all their lives. Gale said they enjoy helping out and are proud to be part of the community. 

Colburn also said a $1,000 grant has been received for the rain garden (pollinator habitat) project from the Sand County Foundation.

Twelve students in Colburn’s Forestry Wildlife Conservation Management Class have been working on the project and are eager to help make the school grounds look better by having rain gardens take the place of eye sores at various locations around the school.

Her students attended a Master Gardener meeting in Prairie du Chien, and the Master Gardeners have given excellent support, advice and seeds to help with the first rain garden, which the students hope to plant this spring at a drainage area near the south parking lot and behind the Performing Arts Center.

Colburn said Carl Perkins funding had previously been secured for the growing of seeds in the greenhouse and there are other sources of funding being looked into.

The Master Gardeners gave the students several types of seeds for the project, including agastache, purple cone flower, swamp milkweed, and butterfly weed, which are all native plants of this region and are also good for water absorption and for pollinators.

Rain gardens not only help to make an unsightly drainage area look good, they soak up a lot of water to help prevent erosion, reduce runoff onto the nearby roads, help get water into the groundwater, and can be used as an outdoor “lab” for various science and ag related courses at the high school. They can also help to reduce the amount of pesticides applied to the various drainage areas on school grounds.

Colburn and her students are gaining knowledge in engineering and are striving to get a cost estimate for their initial rain garden.

A rain garden should be given at least five years to become well established. It is hoped that eventually, there will be 31,758 square feet of rain gardens at various spots around the high school.

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