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Rain garden installed at Burbage Park in Berlin

The Berlin Horticulture Advisory Committee recently installed a rain garden at Burbage Park to restore wildlife habitats and offset stormwater-related issues.

Raun Garden-Berlin

Members of the Berlin Horticulture Advisory Committee are pictured restoring a rain garden at Burbage Park.
Tara Fischer / Bayside Gazette

By Tara Fischer, Staff Writer

The Berlin Horticulture Advisory Committee recently installed a rain garden at Burbage Park to restore wildlife habitats and offset stormwater-related issues. The initial planting took place on Thursday, June 6.

According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, rain gardens are “shallow, constructed depressions planted with deep-rooted native plants and grasses.”

After a storm, rather than rain accumulating on the street or damaging flora, the garden fills with a few inches of water that filters into the surrounding soil. The plantings can reduce mosquito breeding, create bird and butterfly habitats, and filter runoff pollutants.

Horticulture Advisory Committee Chair Andrea Weeg said that the garden in Burbage Park was created to modify the surface where water does not penetrate. Rain would collect and form a large pool, displacing the mulch and killing the plants. The group hopes that the structure will alleviate these issues and inform town residents about protecting individual property from flooding, as the vegetation can help remove standing water in yards, a problem that plagues Berlin homeowners.

“Rain gardens are a beautiful and colorful way for homeowners, businesses, and municipalities to help ease stormwater problems,” the NCEI website reads.

The Berlin committee’s project began a few months ago when they applied for and were awarded approximately $3,200 from the Maryland Coastal Bays Program. The funds went towards all the trees and plants required for the initiative.

Additionally, Weeg said that $1,000 has been allotted for an interpretative sign, which committee member Victoria Spice will design.

“The sign is to teach the community,” the chairperson said. “A lot people walk through the park and play table tennis, so it will teach them about rain gardens, how they work, and what plants they can use in their own gardens.”

Weeg maintained that the rain garden is pollinator-friendly. Butterfly milkweed, a houseplant for the dwindling monarch butterfly, is included in the vegetation.

“Whatever we can do as a city to provide more habitats is our core focus,” she said.

Part of Berlin’s commitment to wildlife preservation is its status as a Bee City.

Bee City USA is a “program that recognizes, supports, and encourages pollinator conservation in cities, towns, and counties.”

According to the organization’s website, the United States is home to over 3,600 native bee species. This includes bumble bees, leafcutter bees, sweat bees, mason bees, longhorn bees, and mining bees.

These insects are vital in assisting plant reproduction, supporting wildlife, and are responsible for roughly one-third of the country’s food and drink consumption. The environmental group emphasizes that preserving bees is necessary now more than ever, as research shows that up to 40% of pollinator species are at risk of extinction due to habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change.

“The steps that affiliates take to conserve our native bees, including creating safe habitats and hosting community events, will also help other pollinators, including butterflies and moths as well as the non-native honeybee,” Bee City USA’s website states. “One of the most impactful actions any affiliate can take is to encourage others to think beyond the honeybee and recognize the true diversity of bees that sustain our communities.”

There are currently 213 Bee City USA affiliates. Berlin has been a member since 2016 and must apply yearly to maintain its involvement.

This story appears in the June 13, 2024, print edition of the Bayside Gazette.