Community Rain Garden Installed Successfully in Hackensack

The Northern New Jersey Community Foundation (NNJCF) and the Hackensack Environmental Justice Alliance produced and gifted a large rain garden at Hackensack High School. The community rain garden was installed on June 1 at the Boost the Block Goes Green festival.

Volunteers of all ages came together to install the plants in the community rain garden.

People of all ages volunteered to install the plants in the community rain garden.

The rain garden, designed by Dave Chalek of Sprout Farms and Gardens in Teaneck, New Jersey, is 100% native. More than 160 plants were installed, representing 28 varieties. Furthermore, this urban rain garden serves as a model, with almost all the plants salt tolerant and not easily damaged by the road salt often used in winter.

More than 50 enthusiastic volunteers came out to help install the community rain garden, be environmental justice and green infrastructure ambassadors, or assist the resident artist. Special thanks to Hackensack Public Schools, M&T Bank and TD Bank for recruiting these energetic volunteers.

Dave designed the garden to be a beautiful learning environment, which looks like a mini-botanical garden. He put in plants that are important to New Jersey’s history, such as New Jersey Tea and added plants that would attract a wide range of birds and other pollinators.

Besides the community rain garden, we donated 40 outdoor native plants, 40 spider plants for indoors, and 61 packets of wildflower seeds. Passersby stopped at the NNJCF’s exhibit table. They were invited to take these items for free to use at home.

Artist Amrisa Niranjan worked with volunteers to paint the community mural.

Volunteers assisted artist Amrisa Niranjan with painting the community mural.

We also held two interactive painting activities, led by Amrisa Niranjan and Mónica Chavarría-Malin. Amrisa created a 4 x 12 mural “Care for Your Little Patch of Earth” for people of all ages to help paint. Monica led a painting party in which 40 community members painted and took home their art.

Green Generation

Stephanie Silva of Project Wilderness gave a very informative, inspiring presentation – The Green Generation: Building a Sustainable Future Together. Stephanie discussed the importance of young people’s involvement in the environment. She pointed out New Jerseyites experienced at least one major, life-threatening storm in their lifetime, with more storms expected. According to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, over the last 50 years in New Jersey, storms resulting in extreme rain increased by 71%, a faster rate than anywhere else in the United States. Surface and groundwater quality — the water people drink — becomes impaired, increased nutrients and contaminants enter waters found in runoff from more intense rain events.

Stephanie mentioned that bringing a community together helps to create sustainable solutions. These solutions include using more green infrastructure. Green infrastructure involves rain gardens, green roofs, and permeable pavements to manage stormwater, reduce flooding, and improve air quality. The installation of the rain garden uses the polluted rainwater running off city streets. Afterwards, this turns into something beautiful. The Green Generation has an opportunity to learn about solutions and become trailblazers in an evolving field by developing skills and knowledge to build a rewarding career, while also building a legacy of environmental stewardship that benefits future generations.

Supporters and Partners

Supporters and partners made possible the installation of the community rain garden. A number of supporters contributed. These supporters included TD Charitable Foundation, M&T Bank, and Columbia Bank Foundation.  In addition, The Funders Network, Suburban Consulting Engineers, PSEG, Garden Communities/The Jefferson and many individual supporters donated to the project.

Volunteers from M&T Bank installed plants in the community rain garden.

M&T Bank staff volunteered to install plants in the community rain garden at Hackensack High School.

We were fortunate to produce this event with one of our lead partners, Greater Bergen Community Action, Inc. We also appreciate the support of partners — the City of Hackensack, Hackensack Public Schools and the Johnson Public Library. Other partners include Fairleigh Dickinson University and the Second Reformed Church of Hackensack.

Upcoming Events

Our next community event occurs on City of Water Day on July 13, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event takes place at Fairleigh Dickinson University campus’ Dr. Martin Luther King Junior monument. The monument, located at 140 University Plaza Drive, also sits near the pedestrian footbridge on the Hackensack side of the river. Parking will be available at the end of University Plaza Drive in Hackensack. Join us for free food and beverages and to paint the river! (Well, you can do a free painting of the river with your guide, Mónica Chavarría-Malin, president of the Hackensack Art Club.) You will also have an opportunity to meet artists doing plein air (outdoor) paintings of the Hackensack River. For more information, go the event’s webpage.

-by Leonardo Vazquez

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