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Metro YMCA of the Oranges Rain Gardens

100 North Arlington Avenue, East Orange, NJ

Project Purpose: The mission of the YMCA Center to strengthen communities through our three focus areas, youth development, healthy living and social responsibly.  The East Orange Branch is an urban service area serving a severely under resourced community.  East Orange is a community that urgently needs high-quality safe, structured, educational opportunities. The City of East Orange has fallen on hard times and offers children few constructive opportunities - in particular, educational opportunities specific to conservation, wildlife habitat and New Jersey's Natural heritage. Coupled with the challenge of children being conditioned by our "indoor" lifestyle, many youth today are unfamiliar with what is "outdoors". By creating several rain gardens on 0.5 acres of lawn around the main educational/recreation facility, with each garden planted with vegetation species representative of different habitats found throughout NJ, youth can visit our gardens as part of a school field trip, scout groups, church groups and summer camps to learn about natural resource protection, in particular water conservation, impacts from pollution and what they can do to protect this resource. These gardens will also offer examples of habitat types that showcase other regions of the state that inner city youth may not be familiar with or realize they even exist in the state.  Use of gardens with the proper interpretive signs and programming will also teach them about the importance of protecting and creating green spaces in their urban cities and hopefully create a sense of wonder and appreciation for wildlife and natural systems. With the help of New Jersey Audubon, this project will provide the physical visual experience in the five concept categories for conservation education: Habitat; natural communities; ecosystems; human ecological impact; and stewardship, all the while reinforcing the concept that rain gardens are an important way to make our cities more attractive places to live and will build urban ecological health.

Brief Description & Resource Values/Project Outputs:
Currently roof leaders around the main YMCA recreation/education building discharge directly to pavement allowing for untreated runoff to flow off site into the adjacent streets with eventual terminus into various storm drain inlets.  According to the 2012 East Orange Recycling and Solid Waste Handling Handbook -these inlets are connected to local waterbodies.  Although East Orange is required to mark storm drains inlets with messages reminding people that they are connected to local waterbodies it is always a uphill battle to create awareness of how runoff impacts a community's ecological health.  However, with the creation of colorful and interesting habitat rain gardens coupled with interpretive signage and educational programs we believe this would be a much more visually stimulating and hands-on for the community to engage in and become aware of the issue.  With storm water pollution being one of New Jersey’s greatest threats to clean and plentiful water and the habitat that comes with it, the project proposes to redirect existing roof leaders into existing abandoned above ground concrete dry well structures which will be converted into "habitat planters".  The abandoned dry wells are currently filled with stone and would discharge below grade directly into the soil.  By adding a layer of top soil into the above ground portion of the dry well native herbaceous plants can been planted directly into each.  There are ten above ground dry well structures (each with its own roof leader), ideally each structure would be planted with native plants representative of regions around the state.  Each rain garden would be outfitted with an interpretive sign that outlines its the region/habitat of Nj it represents and its purpose and water quality benefit.  Additionally, the YMCA has entered into a Partners for Fish and Wildlife contract with USFWS and NJ Audubon to provide additional woody vegetation (trees and shrubs) to be planted around each dry well area to enhance each of the "habitat" types dedicated in each rain garden planter.  Furthermore, the City of East Orange has arranged to donate, deliver and help spread several tons of mulch to the site for planting purposes, as well as provide a "mulched trail" through the areas of the rain gardens which are fenced in to protect from vandalism, but can be accessed and see by the public.   Ultimately the rain gardens would collect water from the roofs and would show visitors how they can divert their downspouts to create a beautiful garden that would improve local water quality while creating a beautiful natural area that will attract wildlife, and reinforce the concept that rain gardens are an important way to make our cities more attractive places to live while building urban ecological health.

Cost/Budget: Estimated Total Budget Cost of Project is (include in-kind labor): $19,200.00

Schedule: Summer 2012 Design layout and Planting of woody vegetation, Fall 2012 redirection of roof leaders and conversion for above ground dry wells into habitat planters.  Spring 2013 herbaceous plants and interpretive sign installment. 

Permit Status: N/A

List of Partners: Metro YMCA of the Oranges, New Jersey Audubon, USFWS, City of East Orange

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