The Merrillville Stormwater Office was designed to showcase features that exhibit responsible practices for stormwater conservation. When it was built, a small area was set aside by the front door for a rain barrel and rain garden. A drain was installed in the area to divert the extra water from the demonstration rain barrel as it was not sufficient to house all of the water that could come off of the roof. After the building was complete, the director, Purdue Extension-Lake County, and the Soil and Water Conservation District collaborated to offer Purdue Extension’s Rainscaping Education Program to educate local residents and conservation professionals about rain gardens and also install the demonstration rain garden on site with the class participants.
The rain garden is a great asset to the area. It provides a more finished feel to the Merrillville Stormwater Office while highlighting a stormwater conservation practice. Furthermore, the garden design highlights a variety of species, which were selected to showcase color in most seasons of the year. The biggest challenge in the garden is the undersized demonstration rain barrel. Therefore, the layout of the rain garden took this into consideration. If the rain barrel were to heavily overflow, there is a straight path of rocks to the drain so that the plants do not wash out. Additionally, plants around the edges of the bed were chosen to hold water in the bed and prevent mulch from washing out.
This successful demonstration garden is visibly placed next to the stormwater building front door to highlight the mission of the office while also displaying how rain gardens can be both functional and attractive.