Living Sustainably: Improving our community one rain garden at a time

By Kelly Goward, Macatawa Area Coordinating Council
The Macatawa Area Coordinating Council is working with the City of Holland and homeowners to plan and install rain gardens. Rain gardens are depressed areas that collect rain water and allow it to soak into the ground.
Rain gardens not only reduce the volume of water in storm drains but also help recharge groundwater. Rain gardens typically include deep-rooted plants, like trees, shrubs, wildflowers, or grasses, that help water move into the soil while adding beauty and providing habitat.
Another benefit of rain gardens is that they get most of the water they need from the rain, so you can conserve water by reducing irrigation. Rain gardens also trap pollutants that come from lawns and streets, like fertilizers, oil and brake dust, keeping them out of Lake Macatawa.
The City of Holland is installing rain gardens in certain city parkways. You may be aware of recent utility work undertaken by Holland Board of Public Works. Some of this work required complete removal of roadways, curbs and sidewalks. The need for new curbs and parkway landscaping provides a perfect opportunity to install rain gardens.
The city leaves openings in the curb to allow water to enter the garden from the street. If the garden fills up, then water continues down the street into the nearest catch basin and off to Lake Macatawa. The best location for parkway or curb-cut rain gardens is near the low point of the road where rain washing off the street will end up.
The MACC has funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to help the city and homeowners install parkway rain gardens over the next couple of years. Holland installed four on 19 th Street in 2019 and is planning for another five or six on 20th and 21st streets in 2020.
The MACC has been reaching out directly to eligible homeowners and working with them to design and install their rain gardens. The city provides engineering and construction of the gardens, and homeowners are responsible for plants, mulch and maintenance.
The MACC is also working with partners this summer to develop a volunteer rainscaping program.
Volunteers will learn how to assess a property and recommend ways to better manage rain water on site.
Rainscaping includes rain gardens and other practices like rain barrels, planting trees, and using native plants. Once we train volunteers, homeowners can sign up to have someone visit their property and recommend rainscaping practices.
If you are interested in rainscaping practices now, MACC staff are available to provide assistance.
Email Kelly Goward at or visit our website at for more information about rainscaping.
 Kelly Goward is the environmental program manager at the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council. She works with the local communities to improve, restore and protect Lake Macatawa and the surrounding landscape.

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme:
Environmental Awareness/Action: Environmental education and integrating environmental practices into our planning will change negative outcomes of the past and improve our future.

Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives. It is presented by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a joint project of Hope College, the City of Holland and Holland Board of Public Works. Go to for more information.

Rain gardens, like this one being installed along West 19 th Street by Carolyn Ulstad and Bruce Schultz, provide multiple environmental benefits.
The Macatawa Area Coordinating Council and City of Holland are working together to encourage installation of rain gardens, like this one along West 19 th Street, to capture storm runoff, reduce irrigation needs, and recharge groundwater levels.