Like most major cities, St. Louis has a lot of concrete. More concrete than plants. In the summertime, all that concrete and asphalt traps the heat of the mid day sun and then reflects it back at night. If you drive from the city out into the country on a warm summer’s night you will instantly feel the 20 degree difference in temperature. It also lets chemicals like ice melter and oil run off into the city’s sewers, polluting the water supply.
All that asphalt also increases the chances of flooding during a heavy rain. As a matter of fact, the entire flood plain is affected by all of the cities that are built on it. But in this age of global warming, people are paying more attention not only to their carbon footprint but also to the micro-climates that they live in. Some city planners are sitting up and taking notice as well.
In north St. Louis, in the blighted area of the city, urban gardens are sprouting up right and left. They are tended by the residents and they share in the bounty of the harvest during the fall. More green spaces are being planned for downtown St. Louis as well, including the area that is being planned around the Arch.
According to the St. Louis Front Page News:
“The Downtown Community Improvement District (CID) has installed its first demonstration Rain Garden at the corner of 11th and Pines Streets. One of the CID’s goals for this project was to catalyze a trend toward more sustainable street scapes in the city. The 11th Street pilot project employs a new segmental wall and curb system, called Freno, that offers a cost-effective, modular method of building an urban rain garden.”
A rain garden relieves pressure on the sewer system during a heavy rain by channeling water from the gutters and using it to water the garden before it reaches the sewer system.
Besides never needing watering, the garden also has special plants and soil that filter out a lot of pollutants that are flushed off of the roads. They are the ultimate in sustainable gardening.
These kinds of eco-friendly gardens are gaining popularity not only in cities like St. Louis in the United States, but also in other urban areas around the world.
The St. Louis Department of Streets and a few other local agencies have donated most of the materials needed for this project.
I have an idea. Why can’t we teach private contractors and individuals to make a rain garden in their neighborhood as well? They would need no watering and very little upkeep and would make a substantial positive impact on the neighborhood’s sustainability and environment. And they look nice too.