Our climate resilience is partially dependent on our ability to integrate natural elements, which yield valuable ecosystem services, into the infrastructure of our communities. We have long understood the benefits of protecting larger-scale green spaces like urban parks and botanical gardens but often neglect the everyday spaces in which we live, work, and play. This is particularly true of periphery or forgotten spaces— drainage ditches, alleys, roadsides, and more. By failing to recognize the many ways that nature can be incorporated into urban infrastructure, communities are missing out on free services including water and air filtration, stormwater management, carbon sequestration, pollinator habitat, climate change resilience, reduced urban temperatures, aesthetic beauty, improved mental health, and many more. 

As we work towards creating greener urban spaces, we must reevaluate how we interact with and think about nature. Various Indigenous communities across the globe have long understood that humans exist within a greater ecological and spiritual whole. According to one account of the Mi’kmaw Creation Story, “The interconnective relationship between Mother Earth and the whole of creation is evident in the Mi’kmaw language. The Mi’kmaw words for the people, and for the Earth, and for mother, and the drum, all come from that term which refers to ‘ ‘the surface on which we stand, and which we share with other surface dwellers.'” In contrast, according to environmental historian William Cronan, within mainstream society often assumes that “the place where we are is the place where nature is not.” This perspective can prove limiting. While technological responses to issues such as stormwater management (such as culverts and drains) can and do address some challenges seen in built environments, they are not always the best solution and may be improved if combined with more naturalized solutions. Engineered (also known as ‘hard’ or ‘grey’) solutions do not generate long-term ecosystem services and may produce unintended consequences. For example, rock walls used to protect shorelines may limit habitat, increase erosion, and more. Alternatively, vegetated shorelines (riparian zones) protect shorelines by absorbing water and buffering against storm surges.  

 Green infrastructure has been defined as, “the natural vegetative systems and green technologies that collectively provide society with a multitude of economic, environmental, health, and social benefits.” There are many different types of green infrastructure including, but not limited to, urban forests, rain barrels, green roofs, parks, bioswales, and rain gardens. Through our Water Guardian project, the PWA has implemented various green infrastructure solutions to address problems including stormwater runoff, flooding, and declining pollinator populations. In total, the PWA has completed 17 rain gardens. This process involves planting water-loving plants within a depression in the landscape to increase the amount of water that infiltrates the soil. When properly installed, rain gardens can reduce flooding, filter runoff, and divert water away from overloaded storm drains, sidewalks, and driveways. This relatively simple and inexpensive approach has already proven to be effective in many areas (see example below). 

Raingarden at the Community Hub on Joyce

The word ‘garden’ often evokes a particular image—manicured islands of mulch, trimmed bushes, and a rainbow of flowers. But mature, successful rain gardens are usually less obvious and require far less maintenance. To get a better idea of what this might look like, look at the images down below comparing a drainage ditch at the Community Hub on Joyce before and several years after the rain garden installation. 

Want to see a rain garden in action? The PWA has many scattered throughout the watershed. Take a photo of one, post it on Facebook or Instagram, tag us, and use #25watershed moments to enter our summer giveaway.  Some of the easiest to find are: 

  • Centennial Park 46.08479132070972, -64.81758327403335
  • Community Hub on Joyce 46.117332445655926, -64.78111669985338
  • NBCC parking lot 46.10789373958163, -64.83054619559584
  • Redwater playground -64.767991 46.074064