The Double 8 Foods rain gardens will substantially contribute to the community through direct environmental impact, educational resources, and direct and indirect aesthetic benefits. It will also play a role in the increasingly vibrant initiatives aimed solely at building community through engaging neighbors in asset-based relationships. The environmental impact relates to its direct result in dramatically lower stormwater run-off for the Double 8 Foods parcel. CSO events in Indianapolis are unfortunately a frequent occurrence, a consequence of our existing stormwater infrastructure. Thus, stormwater must be addressed on-site when possible. Over 67,000 gallons of stormwater land on the Double 8 Foods parcel over a 24-hour period at least once a year (based on ARI 1 year estimates, NOAA) and currently 100% of this stormwater is shunted into the storm drains surrounding the property. With this application, stormwater will be captured and slowly returned to the water table through the rain gardens and cistern, thus decreasing the frequency of CSO events.
In addition to the reduction in CSO events, this project will have several other beneficial environmental effects. As stormwater filters through the rain gardens, it is also cleaned. Thus, rain gardens naturally improve water quality. Rain garden vegetation also improves air quality and promotes biodiversity. Finally, the increased greenspace will reduce heat island effects on our neighborhood, particularly important on a site that is completely surrounded by dark asphalt and concrete.
The educational benefits associated with the Double 8 Foods rain gardens and cistern will be manifold. This is not only due to the location of these resources in a high-density residential area and proximal to a high pedestrian and vehicular trafficked area but its proximity to existing schools, afterschool programs and daycares. First, since many, if not most, Mapleton-Fall Creek residents use the Double 8 Foods – if not for weekly grocery trips, at least for periodic as-needed items, this is a perfect way to educate the community about the importance of rain gardens. It is likely not something that they may make a special trip to see or learn more about. Second, this site is particularly amenable to educational outreach since it currently houses the neighborhood recycling bin for plastics/metal/glass (with an adjacent paper recycling bin). Third, this site will be easily accessible and available for on-site learning by nearby schools, child and adolescent afterschool programs, and daycares. We will promote the rain garden and age-appropriate learning materials. The volunteer opportunities for the rain garden installation will be perfect for middle- and high-school students to participate in (Shortridge Magnet High School is three blocks away, afterschool programs at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church and Tabernacle Presbyterian Church are less than one block away). Other on-site educational field trips will easily be possible for nearby elementary schools (IPS #48 and #60, St. Richard’s School, all within four blocks). Finally, there are several day care facilities (two within one block) that may use the close proximity of the rain gardens and cisterns as a field trip for their children. The educational opportunities made available through schools and formal programs will be in addition to those planned by IndyTilth and the Double 8 Foods rain garden project Steering Committee (e.g., at neighborhood association meetings and other neighborhood forums). The Children’s Museum, among other local organizations and businesses, has also indicated interest in partnering on educational events relating to the rain gardens.
Because this project has already been enthusiastically vetted by neighbors, both within their neighborhood groups and individually, it has already contributed to the growing sense of community within Mapleton-Fall Creek. This community-building aspect of the rain garden initiative can only continue to grow as neighbors see the results begin to take shape and, quite literally, bloom. Neighbor-to-neighbor relationships that are formed and cultivated through volunteering in this project will also develop into a stronger community bond with offshoots manifesting as decreased criminal activity and increased safety for all.
Finally, this project, by contributing greenspace to an area currently completely covered in concrete and asphalt, will beautify the area. This will contribute directly to more aesthetically-pleasing surroundings but also indirectly by increasing property values and potentially increasing patronage of Double 8 Foods.
Costs associated with CSO events are substantial for the City of Indianapolis. CSOs violate the federal Clean Water Act, and 107 Indiana communities, including Indianapolis, experience CSO releases according to the EPA. Reducing the frequency of CSO events in Indianapolis through on-site stormwater management is prudent and cost-effective. By infiltration and evapotranspiration, storage and ponding, rain gardens at Double 8 Foods will dramatically reduce stormwater inputs to the combined sewer system. The proposed rain gardens and cistern also provide direct environmental benefit in terms of improved water and air quality, increased biodiversity and reduced heat island effects. Furthermore, health data indicate that increased greenspace contributes to improved physical and mental health, thereby reducing potential healthcare expenditures. In short, there will be direct economic benefit from this project.
In addition, there will be indirect economic benefits of the proposal. As noted in Figure 8, 2000 Census data indicate that Mapleton-Fall Creek is a diverse population in terms of income and educational attainment. We will demonstrate, however, stormwater management practices may be implemented by any motivated person, regardless of income or education. There have already been workshops on how to make rain barrels in Mapleton-Fall Creek, and residents are already voicing interest in more greenspace and other sustainable investments in their community. Despite skepticism, relocating a recycling bin to the Double 8 Foods parking lot has been a huge success. Thus, it is likely that the mere presence as well as the proposed educational outreach integral to this proposal will compound the direct effects through individual efforts to mitigate stormwater runoff elsewhere in Mapleton-Fall Creek. Local implementation of on-site stormwater management by commercial (developing this grant application has already spurred interest by surrounding businesses in rain gardens on their properties) and residential parcels will even more dramatically reduce the frequency of CSO events.
Another indirect benefit will be the effect of the rain gardens on property values of surrounding residences and businesses and potentially increased patronage of the Double 8 Foods. Both will result in increased tax revenue.
A longer-term result may be increased overall redevelopment potential. There is a high vacancy rate in Mapleton-Fall Creek, although the neighborhood is very desirable based on its historical housing stock, large parcels, and proximity to downtown. Projects like this will help to stimulate additional private investment in the area.