Swan Neighborhood Vegetated Swale Update

vegetated  swale with rain

This is a photo taken by Management Analyst and Sustainability Grant Coordinator Aaron Cosentino of a recent rainstorm where you can clearly see the rainwater entering into the Vegetated Swale.

The Vegetated Swales in my neighborhood are doing what they were designed to do: direct and infiltrate the rain water that falls on the street into the soil and keep it out of the stormwater system that drains into the Fox River.

Wait!  What?  Isn’t rain water supposed to go into the river?


Does it make sense for us to send our precious rain water to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico?

Isn’t it better to infiltrate the water into the soil and into our aquifer?

A bit of history for you new readers:

Our neighborhood, the near southwest area  of Elgin, SWAN, was served by an antiquated combination sanitary and storm sewer that did not have the capacity to carry off heavy rains.   Although there was a clear path to the river that could carry the excess rains.  But then IDOT built a Rt 20 bypass around the south end of our city, which  created a bowl from which rainwater could not not escape; sewers then began backing up into residents’ basements.  The city then began a sewer separation project at a cost of millions, fixing one street a summer and so far two streets have been done.

The city applied for and was awarded an Illinois Green Infrastructure Grant from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency in 2011 to install vegetated swales in our neighborhood.  A neighborhood meeting was held, which attracted 85 residents, all of them enthusiastic.  The criteria for a vegetated swale in ones parkway was that there could be no trees or utilities in the parkway and the homeowner would be responsible for watering, weeding, and cutting it down in spring.  We have had plenty of rain the past two summers, so no one has had to water.

The project will cost $787,787 altogether, with 84% of that amount ($637,500) covered by the grant.  This project is meant to serve as a model for future endeavors in other parts of the city. (Mike Danahey, Elgin Courier News, 17 June 2014)

Plant Stacy's swale

The first one was planted by volunteers in September 2012

The next summer 6 more garden swales were built and planted.


August 13, 2013  The purple flower is Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata); the yellow is Showy Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia speciosa var. sullivantii),  and the orange is Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Cardinal flower Veg

September 7, 2013  The gardens  filled in quickly.  The red-flowered plant is Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

This spring, May 16, 2014,  another volunteer  project was implemented.  Three beds were built in the  parkway next to Lowrie School, K-6, and using designs that I had created (gratis), the beds were planted by students, teachers,  and neighbors.

Lowrie School Veg Swale

Lowrie School 2

Children really do love digging, planting and watering, and the camaraderie brings the neighborhood together.


Lowrie School doneDone!

Next summer our neighborhood hopes to have a Vegetated Swale Garden Walk–you’re all invited.

PS.  Two great Garden Walks take place tomorrow, Sat. June 28, and I urge you to attend both.

river Walk view of river

The first is a walk organized by Northern Fox Valley Wild Ones along lovely River Park in Geneva, Il.  It will be led Mary Zaander, who was one of the people who spearheaded the movement to save the area that is now River Park from becoming a condominium development.

River Park of Geneva is a native ecosystem park of approximately 2 acres in a downtown setting. It brings native plants, animals and vistas into the everyday lives of community members.

It is located on the west bank of the Fox River, 1 1/2 blocks north of Rt. 38, between Rt. 31 and the river.  The tour begins at 10:00 AM.

Then head into Elgin to take part in the AAUW Fox Valley Garden Walk.  This year it is situated in the Northeast End  “Gold Coast” area of Elgin.  I’ll be stationed at the Neighborhood Butterfly Garden at the corner of Douglas and Ann that was conceived and planted by neighborhood residents.    I’ll also be selling my book Design Your Natural Midwest Garden, which contains the design for a Native Plant Butterfly Garden on which the back garden is based.



You can buy a ticket, which also contains really great coupons, at my location or any other.  The Walk  takes place from 9:00AM  – 3:00PM.  Hope to see you there.


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