Beautifully situated on the Bay of Fundy, the historic city of Saint John is home to over 70,000 people. While it’s a progressive urban centre with strong connections to nature and water, the value of green infrastructure is still relatively unknown in the community.
That’s why ACAP Saint John chose to undertake the installation of Saint John’s first rain garden in Queen Square West, a popular west-side park. ACAP saw this as an opportunity to not only elevate public knowledge and appreciation of green infrastructure, but as a key step in a larger initiative to develop a climate change adaptation plan for the City. The demonstration rain garden was an opportunity to showcase what green infrastructure, a key aspect of climate change adaptation, could look like in the city.
ACAP worked with staff from the City of Saint John and local volunteers to build the rain garden and plant 200 native plants on the site. They also installed an interpretive sign that would inform visitors to the park about the value of rain gardens, and direct them to ACAP’s website for more resources. In addition to informing the public about green infrastructure, ACAP hoped to inspire people to build rain gardens on their own properties.
Softening the Ground
ACAP has a good relationship with the City, who often lend in-kind support for project installation. This project not only had planning and implementation support by city staff, but the project was unanimously supported by the city council.
For the rain garden project, ACAP engaged a broader audience by inviting nearby schools to tour the site and leading tours for local service clubs. Volunteers from a local business were instrumental in helping with planting and installation. Planting days were also well attended by community media. This ensured that news of the rain garden installation would reach a larger and more diverse audience.
Saint John’s first public rain garden has been enthusiastically received. ACAP staff and volunteers are regularly complimented on the garden as they water or weed the site and visitors share their appreciation for the improvement to the previously sparse park. It’s been valuable for staff and volunteers to be on-site doing the garden maintenance, as it’s provided an opportunity to initiate conversations with park users and visitors about the importance of rain gardens and green infrastructure. The signage on site has also been key. ACAP has ensured there are good resources on their website about how to build a rain garden at home, so interested community members can initiate similar projects on their properties.
ACAP already has plans for another rain garden installation in the city, at the ACAP office downtown. While it is early days for green infrastructure development in Saint John, this successful installation is a key first step in undertaking a larger climate change adaptation planning process for the City.