Ocean City Intermediate School rain garden complete

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School officials honor all involved in yearlong process

Ann Richardson / Ocean City Intermediate School rain garden complete. Ann Richardson / Ocean City Intermediate School rain garden complete.

OCEAN CITY — It took more than a year, but the rain garden at the Ocean City Intermediate School is finally finished. At a Thursday, Jan. 3 meeting of the Ocean City Board of Education, board members celebrated its completion.

In appreciation for their hard work and contributions, Superintendent Kathleen Taylor presented an honorary red brick from the old Ocean City High School to those who helped make it a reality.

The rain garden was designed to collect rainwater from the roof and downspouts to sustain a pond and garden in the courtyard at the intermediate school at 18th Street and Bay Avenue.

Funded by a $10,000 Sustainable Energy Grant, the garden was created to mitigate issues with mold, mildew and bugs due to overgrowth in the long-neglected courtyard area, but, in the end, has become an environmental center, of which Taylor said everyone can be proud.

“It’s a livable, breathable experiment for us, as well as the birds, bees and butterflies, and anyone else who wants to visit,” she said.

Taylor said the courtyard was a “mess,” and underutilized. Community efforts, she said, made it a beautiful place.

“It’s been an unbelievable experience,” said sixth grade science teacher Cory Terry. “I look forward to watching it grow.”

Terry said she was excited to involve the community in the effort, so people can see the benefits it brings, especially on a barrier island.

“The runoff comes off the roof,” she said, and the plants become “magical little helpers,” she said, that help absorb the runoff. “It’s been a lot of fun.”

Intermediate School Principal Geoff Haines said the rain garden has drawn excitement from visitors.

“The oohs and ahhs,” he said, have been heartwarming.

“You can reflect out there, it’s a wonderful area,” he said.

Staff members have been eating their lunch outside, and it provides fresh air for students. “It’s a wonderful thing to have in the middle of a school,” Haines said.

Taylor honored Glen Watson from Bayside Construction Services, who donated his time and labor to build the courtyard decking.

The Ocean City Shade Tree Commission members donated their time to have a tree planted in the courtyard. Mary Lou Hayes and Richard Menden represented the organization and graciously accepted a brick.

Pete Ault represented the Ocean City Environmental Commission, which assisted Terry in applying for the grant that made the courtyard possible. Terry was honored for her efforts, as were her students, who were instrumental in planting and landscaping throughout the project.

Landscape architect Jennifer Horn designed and assisted with the project and was honored for her efforts.

Carpenters Local 255 and Andrew Bulakowski were also honored for their efforts, providing labor for the courtyard and decking.

“All these folks came together to make it inviting for our students,” Taylor said.

The project caused a stir at a Sept. 28, 2011 school board meeting. The grant was awarded, provided that school officials hire a landscape architect to re-design the courtyard.

Horn recommended that the garden be clear cut and a new garden built.

The board was asked to approve the upgrades to the rain garden plan at that school board meeting, but teachers and other staff objected to it. The staff members argued that over the years, the garden attracted a wide variety of birds, including hawks, warblers, blue jays and cardinals. Trees were also planted in memory of several staff members.

They did not want the board not to make drastic changes, including the removal of an “irreplaceable” cherry tree and some butterfly bushes, but rather wanted to clean the area up. Staff members said the area was an “oasis.”

*Horn said that the large trees were aging and leaning, causing liabilities, and that the butterfly bushes existed at an elevated grade.

“The grade would need to be dropped in order to achieve the programmatic requirements of establishing a rain garden, thereby their removal was required. We also had hoped to use all native plants in this garden and thus were averse to using butterfly bushes, which are alien species,” Horn explained in an email Wednesday, Feb. 6. “After concerns were voiced regarding wildlife and the cherry tree, we adjusted the footprint of the rain garden in collaboration with others involved.”

Taylor said the end result was worth the wait.

“It’s so inviting you just want to be out there all the time,” she said.  

*This article was updated Feb. 7, 2013 to more clearly reflect Horn’s involvement in the project.

Ann Richardson / Ocean City Intermediate School rain garden complete. Ann Richardson / Ocean City Intermediate School rain garden complete.

Ann Richardson / Ocean City Intermediate School rain garden complete. Ann Richardson / Ocean City Intermediate School rain garden complete.

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