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Hampden Garden Catches Rainwater Runoff 

When the University of Maine Cooperative Extension approached officials in Hampden about installing a rain garden outside the town office, folks there jumped at the chance.”We have a lot of nice cooperation,” says Hampden Mayor Matthew Arnett. “We have lots of volunteers working, we have some corporate sponsors that are involved in this as well as support from the stormwater group and the town.”They’ve been planning for years, and Thursday volunteers in Hampden finally started planting.”We’re just putting some mulch on the plants,” says Leah Steltzer, who was volunteering with fellow Girl Scouts.They’re putting in a rain garden that will catch stormwater runoff from the town office parking lot – water that otherwise would run to streams and rivers, carrying particles and pollution with it.”If that soil gets into a lake or stream it makes algae grow. And you can get overgrowths of algae which can disrupt the whole ecosystem there,” says Laura Wilson, assistant scientist with the UMaine Cooperative Extension.Wilson and town officials say though this is a large-scale project, they hope it inspires others to plant smaller rain gardens at home, to stop runoff from roofs and driveways.”There’s not much of an awareness for that kind of thing,” says Bob Osborne, Hampden town planner. “This allows the town to draw attention to this and make people more aware of what it does.”The town set aside five thousand dollars for the project, matched by other groups and supported by lots of in-kind donations.Beyond benefits to the local ecosystem, they’re also looking forward to watching the garden grow through the years.”It adds a nice, attractive piece to the area you see here at the town hall,” says Arnett.”I think people will drive by and think it’s beautiful,” says Osborne.Rain gardens are planted with native plants that interact well with water. Wilson says cost and maintenance are minimal. To find out how to design your own rain garden at home, you can visit: http://www.umext.maine.edu/onlinepubs/PDFpubs/2702.pdf