Rain Gardens in Skagway

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Why & How to Build RainGardens

Though Skagway is a small community, it still faces some big city problems. One of which is Stormwater pollution.

Lucky for us residents, each late summer we get to witness the returning run of pink and chinook salmon in our local Pullen Creek. In how many other communities can people view spawning salmon from city sidewalks? Our urban stream does support a population of one of Alaska’s most precious resources.

However, Pullen Creek is also used as a drainage ditch.

Those stormdrains you see on Broadway? Water off the street goes directly into Pullen Creek via stormdrain. Think about all the substances that collect on our street.

Ask yourself if you would want to eat salmon that spent their egg stage in water containing heavy metals, hydrocarbons (from oil and gasoline), fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. Rain and snowmelt pick up those pollutants found on the streets and carries them into stormdrains and then Pullen Creek.

How can we reduce stormwater pollution into Pullen Creek?

One of the most practical solutions is to direct the stormwater into soil, where it can soak into the ground. The pollutants are captured by the soils and the plants growing in the area. Assuming no one eats those plants, they stay contained in a controlled area.

Enter the Rain Garden.


The figure above shows a situation where rain water from the roof of a house is directed into a basin that is also a garden. Even lawns can have low permeability (ability to soak up water) and can direct water all the way to a street where it can pick up pollutants. This water soaks into the soil before it picks up any pollutants.

The idea of a rain garden isto capture rain water and snowmelt either before it hits the streets or before it hits the stormdrain. Below are examples of streetside rain gardens that collect water already carrying pollutants:



With funding from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s Alaska Clean Water Actions program, the Taiya Inlet Watershed Council is introducing the concept of a rain garden to the community of Skagway through a demonstration garden and spring workshop.

In September 2014 with help from community volunteers including the Skagway Recreation Center’s Summer Camp and Skagway Elementary, Taiya Inlet Watershed Council built Skagway’s first rain garden on Broadway and 11th Street. This is the site of the future new Senior Center.


Garden Site Pre-Construction


Garden Site Post-Construction and Planting



Before the Grass Grew!


One of the beds after a rainfall. Note the brown debris in the middle of the bed. That is how far the water pooled during the rainfall.


Skagway Elementary helps to plant grass in fall 2015.

IMG_0747There are several pieces of this project yet to be completed.

  1. We will need to build a fence along the sidewalk side of the garden beds for pedestrian safety.

  2. We will have a spring planting to finish the beautification of the project.

  3. We will have a workshop for residents who would like to build their own rain gardens. One of the goals of this workshop is also to collect ideas for future rain garden sites in Skagway.

Skagway was unoffically dubbed “Garden City of Alaska” in 1910 because of all of the vegetables and flowers grown in city boundaries. Taiya Inlet Watershed Council hopes to continue the gardening tradition with rain gardens, a growing trend in urban pollution management.

The wikipedia page is a great source for more information on rain gardens: www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rain_garden