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A flood of fun


Published: Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Updated: Sunday, December 15, 2013 16:12

A flood of fun

Photos by Joe Shearer/ The Gateway

City officials watch and document the drainage of UNO's bio-retention garden on UNO's Dodge Street Campus.

Last Thursday, Sept. 26, there was a contest to guess how many gallons would flood a portion of the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s campus. No, it wasn’t for a drill, and it certainly wasn’t for an academic building. Instead it was for the bioretention garden located outside the Welcome Center.

 Normally, the garden will flood naturally in the rain, as run-off from the roof of the Welcome Center is piped into the garden; however a hydrant had to suffice for the day. The event started at 1 p.m. with a crowd of about 20 people representing UNO students and faculty, as well as design and donor groups of the garden.

 “Stormwater runoff is an important topic here in Omaha because when it overflows, raw sewage gets dumped into the Missouri River,” said Steve Rodie, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln faculty member stationed at UNO and designer of the garden. “Your challenge today is to guess how much the north trench of this garden can hold and keep out of the sewers.”

 The garden filled over about a 30 minute period, due in part to the rain earlier that day, which kept the soil from holding in as much water. In the meantime, people walked around the garden, took some mental measurements, and even broke out the phone calculators.

 Environmental studies student Jenny Proescholdt didn’t use a calculator, but did give the garden a thorough inspection.

 “I had heard about the garden, but this was my first time visiting,” Proescholdt said. “I got an email from one of my professors letting us know about the event, so I stopped by.”

 The garden does more than just handle stormwater though, it’s designed to be aesthetically pleasing. Most of the plants selected for the garden were designed to bloom and flower right around this time of year, and each plant type is labeled. There were plenty of rich golden colors, greens, and reds, but it was probably the sapphire asters that drew the most attention.

 “When we design these gardens, we want people to see not only the value in what they do, but also appreciate how they look,” Rodie said. “People aren’t going to want something like this outside their house or business unless it looks good as well.”

 For everyone who showed up, the results of the contest will be available shortly. Maybe all those calculators will be worth it, but Rodie said the real success was just getting such a good crowd to attend.

 “I think a lot of people didn’t know what this garden could do, but we got a good crowd, people had fun, and hopefully they learned something.”

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