The Riverdale Heights Volunteer Fire Department has two new rain gardens thanks to its close ties to the Riverdale Heights/Riverdale Hills/Crestwood Community Association.
The two gardens, filled with native plants and designed to reduce storm water runoff, are the first of their kind planted at a Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department station.
Built in a circular mound of soil mixed with sand and mulch around a center where excess water pools, the gardens are designed to reduce flooding, said Rachel McNamara, a program coordinator with Riverdale-based nonprofit The Neighborhood Design Center. The rain gardens were completed in June as part of a community effort between the fire station, the community association and the nonprofit.
“It’s like night and day if you look at something pretty like this versus the ground that doesn’t grow grass,” said fire station president Robert Goninan of the shrubs, trees and other plants that are now attracting birds to the outside of the building.
The project grew out of Goninan’s efforts to beautify the fire station he remembered from childhood, he said.
When Goninan, who grew up down the street from the firehouse, returned to Riverdale and took a volunteer position at the fire department in 2011, he said the firehouse looked run-down, with letters missing from the name on the building and a rusted flag pole. He contacted the community association, who helped raise money for improvements such as new letters on the building, a new flag pole and a small garden. Last year, as the fire station was about to undergo renovations, Goninan said he and representatives of the neighborhood association began talking about rain gardens and decided to include them in the renovation budget.
Dennis Wood, assistant fire chief with the county’s fire department, said the rain garden project was a “relatively inexpensive” part of the entire renovation, which cost about $200,000 and included a generator for the firehouse, improvements to the engine bay and improvements to the building foundation. He said the money came from the Capital Improvement Program fund for fiscal 2014.
Goninan said the garden is so pretty even the animals have taken notice.
“The first week it was in, robins were flying around,” he said. “The animals are already enjoying it.”
McNamara said the plants in the gardens, including native shrubs such as Carolina allspice, winterberry and red twig dogwood, were chosen for their resilience.
Cindy Daymont, treasurer of the community association who been working for years to clean up nearby Briars Mill Run stream, said the gardens are a welcome addition to the neighborhood. She said they reduce storm water runoff in addition to beautifying the area.
“This is beautiful. It just has cleaned up that side of the firehouse,” Daymont said. “We love it.”