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The Washtenaw County Water Resource Commissioner’s Office (WCWRC) was honored with a Partner In Success designation from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy (EGLE) for the implementation and success of the Rain Garden University program. The Master Rain Gardener class was first developed by WCWRC. Later, a grant from EGLE facilitated the expansion of the program into an online curriculum.
A carefully developed outreach strategy, utilizing analytical tools to measure the changes in social perception of rain gardens as a “best management practice” and as a manageable project for homeowners, was responsible for the success of the program.
Using this strategy, WCWRC examined changes in awareness, attitudes, and behaviors of Rain Garden University participants, both before and after they participated in the course and compared to them to the perception of the general population.
The study, which used an MSU-developed survey tool, SIDMA, revealed increased knowledge of rain gardens, their importance to water quality, and showed that Rain Garden University participants had an increased willingness to construct one. More significantly, the study showed that outreach and peer behavior modeling changed the attitudes of the general population.
EGLE stated this program was "The first outreach that has moved the needle" in creating a positive perception of rain gardens in the general population. This program transformed the successful Master Rain Gardener class into an online curriculum accessible for local residents and individuals worldwide.
During the 3-year grant, 88 rain gardens were built by homeowners in targeted watersheds. Homeowners have now built more than 1,133 rain gardens across the Great Lakes Region by studying this online course.
(Here Certified Master Rain Gardener sits by their completed rain garden)
State representative Rebekah Warren stated “I recognize how important it is that members of our community are empowered to participate in helping to protect the watershed. I am heartened to learn of the hundreds of rain gardens that have been successfully installed and are now helping to improve water quality, reduce runoff, preserve native vegetation, and more.”
Currently, Rain Garden University offers the Master Rain Gardner Couse free, and on-demand. Washtenaw County Water Resources Rain Garden Coordinator Susan Bryan continues to consult with local residents and communities throughout the Great Lakes region to start programs in their metropolitan areas. For more information on becoming a Master Rain Gardener, or offering this program in your community at www.MasterRainGardener.org.
The mission of the Office of the Water Resources Commissioner is to provide for the health, safety and welfare of Washtenaw County citizens and the protection of surface water and the environment and to promote the long term environmental and economic sustainability of Washtenaw County by providing storm water management, flood control, development review and water quality programs.