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May 02, 2014

Rain Barrels on the Riverfront

Detroit-rain-barrel-event

On the last Saturday in April, Sierra Club volunteers and staff teamed up with the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy and MI Rain Barrel to host a rain barrel workshop and sale on Detroit's RiverWalk. The event was supported by the Erb Family Foundation.

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"We chose this location to highlight how disconnecting downspouts and connecting rain barrels help prevent urban runoff from entering the region's aging sewage system, which often pollutes the river during storm events," says Great Lakes Program Director Melissa Damaschke, below.

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Detroit Water Team volunteers and local Sierra Club staff both pitched in to help organize the hands-on workshop, and some 25 volunteers from the Club and the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy were trained before the event to teach participants at the event how to make their rain barrels.

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"On the day of the event, more than 30 Sierra Club volunteers came downtown to help out, and about 80 local residents participated," Damaschke says. "It was great to see so many people involved."

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Detroit City Councilman and Green Task Force Chair Scott Benson, below, kicked off the event by sharing his efforts to protect the Detroit and Rouge Rivers from stormwater and sewage pollution.

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Participants then broke up into 10 groups with 20 volunteer trainers, who taught them how to transform more than 50 used olive barrels into rain barrels.

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After people learned how to make rain barrels, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy demonstrated how they disconnected one of Rivard Plaza's downspouts from the sewer system to two rain barrels )below at left). The rainwater is then used to water flowers in planters along the RiverWalk. Local artists also taught young participants how to paint their rain barrels.

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At the end of the morning, everyone who attended the workshop took Sierra Club's Great Lakes Pledge to connect their rain barrels to their downspouts when they returned home.

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To prepare for this workshop, the Sierra Club coordinated three train-the-trainer workshops, training over 20 volunteers to teach participants at the workshop how to build their rain barrels. The Club also provided scholarships to residents who wanted rain barrels and demonstrated financial need.

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"The Club's Detroit Water Team of volunteers has organized three of these workshops before," Damaschke says, "and they've all been so successful that the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy has requested that we repeat the event for their Sustainable Saturdays series on Saturday, July 26, which we will most certainly do." That's Rachel Frierson, programs and community outreach coordinator for the Conservancy, below.

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Damaschke gives a special shout-out to Detroit Water Team volunteers Diane Crawford, Regina Lawson, Trenise Russell, Sonja Steis, Donna McDuffie, Donna Wood, and Eileen Bourne, and Sierra Club Great Lakes Program conservation organizer Erma Leaphart-Gouch. Below, Crawford and Leaphart-Gouch enjoy the day.

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"It was a fun morning and a great opportunity for local residents to learn how to make and install rain barrels and learn more about urban water issues," Damaschke says. "Overall, it was a really good event."

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