August 22, 2019

Many come together to help create West Branch rain garden

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WEST BRANCH — The city of West Branch is one step closer to the formation of a rain garden near the Fourth Street Gift Shop and Gallery, which will serve the multiple purposes of filtering rainwater, providing a beautified area for visitors and residents and memorializing those who have contributed over the years to make the city what it is.

The project included the efforts of many, but the West Branch Retail Merchants Association spearheaded the effort, knowing it wanted to create some kind of memorial space, association member Clara Clark said.

Clark explained that the ball started rolling when the merchants group was given the idea of a rain garden — a garden of deep-rooted plants placed in an indented area where water can collect and be purified from chemical runoff, from things such as asphalt. With the prospect of obtaining grants for the project and the availability of a space beside the West Branch Creative Arts Association gallery, a committee was formed to create plans for the garden.

Grants, Public Safety and Community Revitalization Coordinator Kelli Collins said she was approached to help secure the grants, which were awarded in the form of a $5,000 community impact grant from Huron Pines and $1,000 from the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network.

As far as its location near the gallery, Collins said it is perfect because it is connected to the river walk.

“Creative arts has been a very good partner with us, sharing some of the ideas of the garden and plants,” Collins said.

Plans for the garden include a patio area with seating. Clark said Justin Benjamin of Finished Concrete suggested that rather than pouring a basic concrete base for the patio, he could create something more unique — the mitten of the Lower Peninsula.

“He said he would like to do it because it would be a challenge,” Clark said. “He’s never done that before.”

The concrete feature was finished last week, and it includes a “smiley face” where West Branch is located on the mitten — a placemaking feature that literally puts West Branch on the map.

The rain garden’s physical formation had already been in progress, with the aid of various groups. A soccer team helped to spread mulch, basketball players also put in some work, and participants in last year’s Summer GAP program painted rocks for the garden. The garden also includes a metal art piece created by Marsha Doss depicting Michigan trees and animals.

Clark said more plants are to be added, along with mulch, pavers and a memorial sign.

“In a couple weeks it’s going to be cool,” she said, stressing that it’s not quite finished yet.

She wanted to make sure she gave thanks where it was due.

“Toby and Dave Evergreen were very instrumental in designing it and coming up with a plan and doing some of the preparation work,” she said.

Michigan State University Extension master gardeners have also been helping with the planting.

Clark said a ribbon-cutting is planned for later this summer.

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