Rain Gardens Added to Hightstown Park to Absorb Runoff

June 26th, 2020

The Watershed Institute recently installed two shallow rain gardens and a pollinator garden to manage stormwater runoff and foster wildlife habitat at the Rocky Brook Environmental Resource Center in Hightstown.

Funded by a grant from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), the Watershed teamed up with experts from Rutgers Landscape & Nursery to install the plants and soil amendments in the 2,050 square-foot gardens on June 23-26.

Watershed scientists have assessed hundreds of sites across 16 municipalities in central New Jersey under a multi-year NJDEP grant and have approached towns and cities with possible solutions using green infrastructure to manage polluted stormwater runoff. This site was chosen as a demonstration project to wrap up the grant.

Steve Tuorto, PhD, the Watershed’s Director of Science & Stewardship, said the two vegetative filters, or shallow rain gardens, were dug out and filled with absorbent soil before being planted with sedge grasses, woody shrubs and native plants. These natives are well suited to the environment and have deep roots to soak up stormwater runoff.


The two gardens, totaling about 1,050-square-feet, mimic nature by capturing runoff and filtering out any oil, salts, pet waste and other contaminants, improving the water quality before it flows into Rocky Brook.

“This process is an important step towards improving the water quality and overall health of the stream,” he said.

Jeff Douglass, a landscape designer at Rutgers Landscape & Nursery, said the other new feature, a 1,000-square-foot pollinator garden with flowering native plants, will enhance native wildlife and complement the community garden that is also located in the park.

Volunteers from the Hightstown Environmental Commission will assist with watering the new gardens as part of a practical solution to flooding from the parking lot, as well as beautification of the park. Additionally, the Rutgers team will maintain the garden for several years.

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