West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commissioner Sally Wenczel wrote and illustrated a children’s book titled “Let’s Build a Rain Garden.”

West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commissioner Sally Wenczel wrote and illustrated a children’s book titled “Let’s Build a Rain Garden.”

Photo by Deb Jacques

West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation commissioner writes book on protecting local watersheds

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published April 5, 2021

 West Bloomfield resident Sally Wenczel, pictured March 24, said it took about two years to complete her children’s book, “Let’s Build a Rain Garden,” which she both wrote and illustrated.

West Bloomfield resident Sally Wenczel, pictured March 24, said it took about two years to complete her children’s book, “Let’s Build a Rain Garden,” which she both wrote and illustrated.

Photo by Deb Jacques


WEST BLOOMFIELD — Last year, West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commissioner Sally Wenczel completed a book that she would like to both entertain and educate children.

Wenczel’s self-published book is titled “Let’s Build a Rain Garden,” and she said it took about two years to complete.

It is the first book she has written.

Wenczel provided a synopsis of the book, which she both wrote and illustrated.

“Our watershed is a reflection of us, and we need to be very mindful of everything that’s going into it — the pollution, the stuff running down our streets into the storm sewers,” Wenczel said. “We have to pay attention to what’s going into our streams and lakes, and this book is informing, in a fun way, how we can keep that watershed healthy.”

Wenczel said West Bloomfield is at the headwaters of three watersheds — the Rouge River watershed, the Huron River watershed and the Clinton River watershed. Having three is “pretty rare,” she said.

From her perspective, being at the headwaters is a lot of responsibility.

She described a watershed as an area of land that drains, or sheds, water into a specific body of water.

“Everything flows from high to low,” Wenczel said. “It drains rainfall and snowmelt into streams and rivers. So this is water from hundreds or even thousands of creeks, rivers and streams that are flowing down into a common larger water body.”

One of the things Wenczel would like children to take from the book is that it’s important to keep native plants around your home, if possible.

“They attract pollinators and bees,” she said. “So often, we’re just obsessed with turf grass — these golf course-looking yards that are really just a dead zone. It’s a dead zone, especially if fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides are used. It’s not benefiting the environment at all, and the water flows over that compact surface really quickly and sheds off into the street or other surfaces.”

Wenczel utilizes “pretty pictures” to help illustrate what she is trying to teach children.

She discussed one of the lessons that can be learned.

“The more deep-rooted plants that we have around us, the more bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and monarch butterflies we’re going to attract, and all of that keeps our environment healthier,” Wenczel said. “We want to keep the bees and the butterflies around. We don’t want to have an environment where there’s nowhere for them to live.”

West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Naturalist Supervisor Lauren Azoury said she has read Wenczel’s book multiple times.

“I love how she included the pollinators, the little bumble bee that follows along throughout the story,” Azoury said. “It’s really great to have a resource that is kid friendly, because kids are really great at inspiring their adults to do projects like this. The kid-friendliness of it and the illustrations are really great.”

Wenczel, who is married with two children, ages 4 and 7, said her book is “full” of illustrations.

“I wanted to make it super colorful and eye candy,” she said. “There’s a little bee hidden on each page that the kids need to find. I wanted it to be something that a parent can read with the kid, and they’re both learning together from it.”

Wenczel’s idea of a rain garden is one in which “you’re embracing the rain before it hits the drain.”

“It doesn’t have to flow off of our rooftop, off of our driveway, flow away from our house and just be gone,” she said. “It can actually be a resource. … So, you’re catching it, in a way, and you’re using it to grow these native plants, to grow a garden, to filter out pollution and gutter-grit that might be coming off of your house, or oil and antifreeze from your driveway. It’s going to be filtered out by these deep-rooted native plants.”

The Friends of the Rouge is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1986 to raise awareness about the need to clean up the Rouge River in southeast Michigan.

Birmingham resident Lara Edwards is part of the organization’s membership development. She said Wenczel’s book “beautifully captures the curiosity of a child” and takes them “through the ABCs of a rain garden.”

“Friends of the Rouge works across the Rouge River watershed, which West Bloomfield is part of, to better the river,” Edwards said. “One of the simplest solutions for cleaning water and removing water pollution is creating rain gardens, which not only filter pollution from water, as Sally so beautifully writes, they attract all of this exciting, lovely wildlife — the beauty of the flowers, but also songbirds, butterflies and bees. And so, to see a book about rain gardens, specifically written for kids, was thrilling, from my perspective and the perspective of my colleagues at Friends of the Rouge.”

It isn’t just children who can get something from Wenczel’s book.

“Anybody can do this if you take a few easy steps. Take this information, and either find a contractor or do it yourself,” said Wenczel, who graduated from Mount Pleasant High School before going on to attend Albion College, where she majored in English. “Go to a nursery (and) ask, ‘Where are your native plants?’ You can do this at your house, and every little bit helps when it comes to keeping our watershed healthy.”

If residents take a proactive approach, Wenczel is of the opinion that it will “help the animals and people that are using the lakes and rivers.”

She suggests calling MISS DIG, Michigan’s utility safety notification system, at  (800) 482-7171 before embarking on a project.

Wenczel said there is a diagram in the book that includes basic steps for building a rain garden.

She said there are four rain gardens at her house.

“By embracing that rain, we’re helping to keep our lake water clean,” Wenczel said.

Wenczel’s book can be purchased on amazon.com.