Rain causes stormwater runoff, especially in urban areas with paved roads, parking lots, and buildings, and Chattanooga Public Works crews combat this with managed rain gardens throughout the city.

Warner Park is home to several of those gardens that line the parking lot.

A rain garden may look different from what you picture as a typical, landscape garden, but the plants are hard at work.

Although some appear brown and dormant currently after cold temperatures, they are working year-round absorbing and cleaning rainwater runoff.

Stormwater is everyone's responsibility. It has lasting effects on creeks and the quality of our drinking water supply.

"When you have stormwater that runs off of parking lots very quickly and into creeks and streams that can cause erosion, and that stormwater is polluted," Lucy Ellis, Landscape Inspector with the City of Chattanooga's Water Quality Program, explained.

Rain gardens capture stormwater closest to where it falls.

The gardens with sandy soil are placed into a depression, so rainwater from paved surfaces and gutters flows into them.

"The water then slowly sinks through the ground and into an underdrain. And all of those steps help slow it down, and then the plants can work on the water left in the soil," Ellis stated.

The plants used are native to this area, so they are adapted to our climate and have a variety of root systems.

"Plants are what cleans the water before it gets into the streams so that we have cleaner drinking water," said Ellis of their importance.

People must work to manage these gardens.

"We've got to plant. We've got to prune. We've got to water our new stuff, and all of that takes a lot of time and people," Ellis listed.

Employees and volunteers work together to ensure the gardens flourish.

Volunteers are part of a program called Rain Garden Guardians, which aims to connect people with plants.

"I've been learning about native plants and their importance from Wild Ones. And because it's an awful lot of fun coming over here and being with other people and meeting folks that care about the environment," volunteer Kate George said of her involvement with the program.

Rain Garden Guardians meet twice a month on Thursdays at various gardens throughout the city.

Upcoming volunteer dates:

  • 12/5 John A. Patten Park and YFD Center
  • 12/19 Renaissance Park Rain Garden
  • 1/2 Spears Ave. Pump Track at Stringer's Ridge
  • 1/23 Warner Park
  • 2/6 John A. Patten Park and YFD Center

The city of Chattanooga also has a homeowner's incentive program called RainSmart.

If you are interested in installing a rain garden on your property, they will work with you through the process and reimburse the cost up to $1000 for it.