New Rain Gardens take root at Cully homes

Verde, Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East, Columbia Slough Watershed Council and Reynolds Learning Academy MYC are teaming up to install rain gardens at six Cully homes this spring.

Rain gardens manage stormwater by diverting run-off to native plants that filter the water and prevent flooding. As part of Verde’s mission to build environmental wealth in low-income neighborhoods, Verde is installing these environmental assets at the homes of lower-income residents in Cully.

Nestor Campos, Verde’s Education Coordinator, started the rain installation program in 2014. The program addresses the triple bottom line of sustainability – economy, environment, education – by providing environmental resources and education to low-income homeowners in Cully.

This year, Verde collaborated with the Columbia Slough Watershed Council (CSWC) to continue growing the rain garden program. MYC has worked with CSWC in the past on restoration projects, so this new partnership opened the opportunity to involve MYC students in the rain garden builds. This new opportunity exposes students to green workforce development, according to Matt Lee, Stewardship Coordinator at CSWC.

The team installed the first rain garden at Judith Sosa’s house, a Cully resident since 2001. Judith connected with Nestor and the rain garden program through her involvement in the Cully community. In 2017, Judith participated in Habitat for Humanity’s home repair program to replace her leaking roof. Home repair coordinator Jake Antles encouraged her to connect with Nestor, said Judith. Step by step, Judith feels like she is making improvements on her home.

Judith Sosa and her mother pose next to their newly installed rain garden.

Additionally, Judith is an active member of the Cully community. She regularly attends Cully Housing Action Team meetings hosted monthly at Living Cully Plaza to organize Cully community members around affordable housing and justice for renters.

“It’s important to connect with our neighbors so that we can help each other,” said Judith.“The rain garden has been a very interesting and informative project”, she added. It has given her the opportunity to learn more about maintaining the natural environment. Each homeowner receives information from Nestor about how to maintain a rain garden, and ultimately signs a maintenance contract, agreeing to take responsibility for the care of the garden.

Judith shared some of what she had learned. “Plants play a large role in cleaning and soaking up water,” adding that she looks forward to learning more about how to maintain the garden.

Thanks to MYC, Habitat for Humanity, Columbia Slough Watershed Council, and our Cully neighbors for coming together to build environmental wealth in Cully.

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