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Rain gardens coming this spring to Civic Center Park

Meeting at library Jan. 26 will discuss green initiatives

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published January 10, 2020

 This spring, three rain gardens will be  installed at Civic Center Park in Madison Heights, with proposed locations around the shelter building and fire station. The rain gardens will reduce stormwater runoff with deep-root native plantings that absorb it.

This spring, three rain gardens will be installed at Civic Center Park in Madison Heights, with proposed locations around the shelter building and fire station. The rain gardens will reduce stormwater runoff with deep-root native plantings that absorb it.

Photo by Deb Jacques


MADISON HEIGHTS — An eco-friendly form of stormwater reduction is coming to Civic Center Park in Madison Heights.

The park, named after the Civic Center Complex it is located behind near the corner of 13 Mile and John R roads, will feature three rain gardens. Locations include behind the Fire Department’s training tower, inside the path where it makes the curve; directly south of the playscape in the existing drainage swale; and directly northeast of the shelter building where the sidewalk meets the path.

The size of the gardens is to be determined based on site conditions. The gardens themselves will not be fenced, and will be generally accessible to the public. There will also be signage in place that not only identifies where the funding comes from, but educates the public about the purpose of the gardens.  

As a member of the Clinton River Watershed Council, or CRWC, the city of Madison Heights is focused on reducing runoff into the Clinton River, and ultimately Lake St. Clair. Corey Almas, the city’s director of public services, explained that the projects were originally designed and suggested through the CRWC’s WaterTowns initiative, which provided conceptual designs, estimated price points and the anticipated volume of overall stormwater reduction. The city of Madison Heights was one of six cities awarded grants from a total pool of $265,000.

The grant application for the gardens was administered by the city’s stormwater consultant, Laura Gruzwalski, with DLZ — formerly Johnson and Anderson Engineers — and awarded from the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, also known as SEMCOG.

The funding itself comes from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative — in particular a program called Restoring the Lake Erie Corridor Through Green Streets, of which $39,000 will go toward the Madison Heights project.

The Madison Heights Environmental Citizens Committee is also involved, as is the city’s Department of Public Services. Community volunteer groups will help implement the project too.

In terms of the work involved — and how the gardens function — the existing sod and soil will have to be excavated and removed from the proposed sites, then backfilled with layers of sand, gravel and mulch, which will provide an area for stormwater runoff to collect, and for the roots of the plantings to spread and absorb.

The project will start this spring, and the gardens should take no more than a month to create and plant, Almas said, and will be fully established after the first year or two. Once the gardens are established, they will require routine weeding and trimming.

The gardens will consist of deep-root native plantings that soak up rainwater, as well as permeable pavers in areas that are subject to light vehicle traffic and heavy foot traffic.

“The gardens will reduce the amount of standing water and runoff into catch basins, provide an aesthetically pleasing planted area in a major city park, and will reduce the overall area of grass to mow and maintain,” Almas said. “The historic approach to stormwater has been to either change the landscape in order to get it to a nearby drain, or install a drain to deal with it. This results in additional infrastructure to maintain and more water in the stormwater system. The rain gardens solve an existing standing water problem through a low-maintenance, aesthetically pleasing approach.”

The city learned of the opportunity when Mayor Pro Tem Roslyn Grafstein attended a water quality program through Michigan State University and spoke with Melissa Damaschke, the program officer at the Erb Foundation, about different grant opportunities available to the city. Grafstein then shared the information with city staff so that the city could apply for the grant.

“Part of our green infrastructure plans for the city include the installation of these three rain gardens at Civic Center Park to reduce stormwater runoff. The city is committed to implementing green infrastructure best management practices to promote these ideas in urban environments to residents, local businesses and developers,” Grafstein said.

“The project will not only provide tremendous stormwater quality and management benefits, but will also provide habitat for birds, butterflies and insects; greatly enhance the existing landscape; attract additional visitors to the park; and lead to greater economic values of the park’s adjacent properties.”

Other eco-friendly projects are also in the works. On Sunday, Jan. 26, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at the Madison Heights Public Library, 240 W. 13 Mile Road, Grafstein and the Environmental Citizens Committee will host a public brainstorming session to discuss options for rain gardens, pollinator gardens and other environmentally sound options for grassy areas in the city. Such gardens would be funded through grants, sponsors and private donations.

Those interested in sponsoring a garden but unable to make the meeting can contact Grafstein directly at (248) 716-4723 or by emailing