Since the Rainscape Retrofits program first began in November 2011, Friends of the Rappahannock has assisted homeowners in constructing ten projects to help reduce the impact of stormwater runoff on the Rappahannock River. The Rainscape Retrofits program is a cost-sharing partnership between homeowners and FOR staff and volunteers to accomplish that goal. The program has been met with much enthusiasm.

To make the process as successful as possible, FOR has updated the procedure for requesting and planning a Rainscape Retrofit. The first step is for a homeowner to simply express an interest for a retrofit. FOR then connects with the homeowner, who fills out a simple application that describes the runoff issues on their property. After learning more about the problem at hand, a Rainscape team member will meet with the homeowner on their property to conduct a site audit so FOR can determine the best solution.

The answer to a runoff issue may come in several different forms—from rain barrel installation and rain garden construction to soil amendment and downspout disconnection. FOR is there from the planning phase to construction phase to make the process to better the health of the Rappahannock River go as smoothly as possible for the homeowner.

It is very important to keep the process interactive, always taking into account the homeowner’s wishes for the design so that the outcome is both beneficial to the river and meets the homeowner’s approval. One homeowner, Kathryn Waldron of Spotsylvania County, who is currently undergoing the procedure for getting a retrofit said, “We have been working with Sarah, from the Rainscape Retrofits program, through the Friends of the Rappahannock over the past several months. She has been such a pleasure to work with. She always works around our schedules for site visits and constantly communicates as to the status of the project.” The Rainscape Retrofits are designed to be successful over time with little maintenance, as many of these solutions emulate the way that nature handles stormwater runoff.

FOR’s Rainscape Retrofits team of staff and volunteers helped to construct a rain garden in November 2012 for Meredith Egge of the City of Fredericksburg. Upon checking on this rain garden in July 2013, Rainscape Retrofits team members noted that it has continued to be aesthetically pleasing and, despite the heavy summer rains, there was no standing water—signaling that the rain garden was continuing to successfully and efficiently hold and drain water.

Brent Hunsinger, who had a rain garden installed February 2013, said his rain garden “has provided a functional and aesthetically pleasing feature to the yard. It serves the dual purposes of water quality enhancement for the river and habitat for wildlife through the use of native plants.” Rainscape Retrofits are a cost-effective and versatile way to keep excess nutrients and sediments out of the river, thus keeping the river healthier over a long period of time.

Written by: Bethany Williams, FOR Summer Intern

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