Northport Village rain gardens help improve water quality and keep harbor clean, officials say

Along a stretch at the top of Bluff Point Road in Northport Village, three roadside areas now thrive with a variety of native plants and flowers.

The shrub and flower vegetation includes purple coneflower and fox sedge and is designed to be a green solution to tackling water pollution, said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens’ Campaign for Cleanliness. environment based in Farmingdale. The gardens capture and filter contaminants from polluted runoff before they enter Northport Harbor and eventually Long Island Sound. Rain gardens, say environmentalists, help improve water quality and keep the harbor clean.

Esposito said the Bluff Point Road watershed, where the gardens are planted, was known to have storm water rushing down the road before it entered the harbour.

“This place was the perfect site for these gardens,” she said. “These gardens are built to capture 15,000 gallons of rainwater each time it rains and filter it before it spills into the harbour.”

Esposito’s group partnered with the Northport Yacht Club and the Village of Northport to create the gardens, which are jointly owned by the Village and the Club.

The gardens that were planted this spring in front of the Northport Yacht Club are already doing their part.

Stephanie Quarles, who helped set up the project, said a long-time club employee noticed for years that stormwater was coming through the club’s parking lot, picking up debris and entering the harbour.

“Once those come in, he doesn’t notice it at all,” said Quarles, who is a member of the club.

Esposito said the problem with stormwater is that as it flows down the road, it collects pollutants such as nitrogen, pesticides, fertilizers and bacteria.

“So you want it filtered before it enters the port,” she said.

The design of the gardens allows water to seep into the ground and filter out contaminants.

“Then the plants use the nitrogen nutrient before it enters the port where it is actually considered a pollutant,” she said.

Esposito said club members were concerned about the amount of water that would flow down the road without being filtered in the harbour.

In May, volunteers installed hundreds of plantings in the gardens.

Populating the gardens are native grasses such as fox sedge, prairie drop seed and switchgrass. Perennials include butterfly weed, false indigo blue, purple coneflower, and New York aster. Dwarf honeysuckle and inkberry are among the shrubs that dot the landscape.

Esposito said a consulting firm was hired to design the garden and provide a strategic planting plan with native vegetation. She said the garden areas had been lightly dug up and filled with “good” soil to ensure successful plant growth and drainage.

The project was funded by a $38,000 grant from the Long Island Sound Futures Fund of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Northport Village Mayor Donna Koch said that due to the topography of the village with its narrow, sloping streets, managing stormwater runoff and keeping the harbor clean is a major issue.

“These gardens are very important to Northport Harbour,” she said. “It will filter 9.5 pounds of nitrogen; it’s a big saving for the port, the surroundings and the bay.

Green infrastructure

A rain garden is described as a vegetated area designed to capture and retain rainwater so that plants can absorb the water. These areas are often equipped with tile drains, overflows, or other engineered devices to deal with extreme storms.

Northport Rain Gardens by the Numbers

  • 15,000 gallons of stormwater will be captured and treated before it enters Northport Harbor

  • 9.5 pounds of nitrogen removed before it enters Long Island Sound

  • 1 inch of rain captured and recharged

Source: Citizens’ Campaign for the Environment

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