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'Rain Garden' set to recharge landscape in Santa Fe

Alameda Rain Garden Opening
Kaveh Mowahed
Stakeholders cut the ribbon to signify completion of the newest Alameda rain garden.

A new Rain Garden in downtown Santa Fe will divert storm runoff from East Alameda Street into a series of tiered pools between the sidewalk and the Santa Fe River where it will slow down, get filtered, and soak in before flowing into the river.

Rain garden sign
Kaveh Mowahed
Interpretive signage explains how the new rain garden will benefit the environment.

The gardens are intended to be parklike settings that are both beautiful and functional. Santa Fe Parks and Open Space Director Melissa McDonald said this site is special because of its location along the busy downtown throughway that is already lush with treecover and now also has pollinator friendly plants.

McDonald invited the public to come see the site for themselves. “There’s a beautiful picnic table right down there, so when it starts drizzling grab your umbrella, have a seat, and you can see that water flow off the street, down the steps and into this garden,” she said.

Landscape designer for the project Reese Baker is also a doctoral student in biology at UNM. He incorporated mycelium fungus into the design to help break down the toxins flowing from the road's surface.

Alameda rain garden
Kaveh Mowahed
A westward view of the rain garden along East Alameda Street just before an evening monsoon storm.

Baker was excited about the prospect of projects like these becoming transformative for city landscapes. “Imagine urban environments becoming the source of clean freshwater ecosystems instead of the opposite that it is now.”

It’s the newest of seven rain gardens that are part of the Alameda Rain Gardens program with more than 20 other sites identified for future development.

The project was grant funded by the New Mexico Environment Department and came together under a partnership between the City and the Santa Fe Watershed Association.

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This report is part of our Your New Mexico Government project, a collaboration between KUNM radio and New Mexico PBS. Support for public media provided by the Thornburg Foundation.

Kaveh Mowahed is a reporter with KUNM who follows government, public health and housing. Send story ideas to kaveh@kunm.org.
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