Got spare time during your drive across Franklin, MA? Check out these hidden gems that were featured in a town rain garden tour on August 17! The Town of Franklin has built and maintains an impressive 15 rain gardens across town in an effort to help capture rainwater as it flows off of streets, parking lots, and rooftops and filter it through the ground before it reaches the Charles River. These rain gardens make a huge impact keeping the river clean and healthy!
Stop #1: Town of Franklin Department of Public Works, 257 Fisher Street
This rain garden is the perfect stop for Franklin residents. The next time you need to drop off used compact fluorescent light bulbs at the DPW office, take a walk around the east side of the building to check out this neat rain garden! The most prominent plants in this rain garden are purple coneflowers, which belong to the genus Echinacea. Echinacea blooms throughout the summer and readily fills in empty spaces in the garden from year to year. Historically, Echinacea has been used to make teas and other products that have been used to soothe sore throats, coughs, and headaches.
Stop #2: Parmenter Elementary School, 235 Wachusett Street
Whether you’re a student, parent, teacher, or administrator, this rain garden is sure to make an impression! Prominently located between the school entrance and Wachusett Street, this rain garden system really illustrates what it looks like to clean all of the rainwater that falls on dirty impervious surfaces, like rooftops and roads. Underground pipes transport water from the roof of the school to the garden. The system also features a settling area, known as a forebay, where sediment and trash are collected before water spills into the main garden area. The most prominent plants in this rain garden system are Red Osier Dogwoods. Their stems remain a vibrant shade of red year-round, and they produce fragrant white flowers in late spring and bluish fruits in late summer. The berries are a food source for more than 18 species of birds, and the plants only need to be pruned once a year.
Stop #3: Remington/Jefferson School, 628 Washington Street
This rain garden provides an interesting comparison with the Parmenter School’s rain garden system. Walk around to the west side of the school to take a look! Attractive river stones form pathways that slow the rainwater as it moves through the garden, which allows leaves, sediment, and other debris to settle out before the water slowly infiltrates through the ground. Prominent flowers in this rain garden at this time of year include beautiful yellow Black-eyed Susans and bright red bee balm, which is a great flower for attracting butterflies.
Stop #4: Anchorage Road cul-de-sac, Anchorage Road
A must-see for city planners, developers, or anyone who lives in a cul-de-sac neighborhood, this rain garden replaced a chunk of asphalt that was removed from the center of the cul-de-sac with low-maintenance shrubs and grasses. The project had the dual benefits of reducing the road area that needs to be maintained through sand/salt in winter and periodic repaving while giving back natural green space that adds visual interest and improves the cycling of water in the neighborhood.
Stop #5: Franklin Sculpture Park, Panther Way
A fitting last stop for a tour of Franklin’s rain gardens, the sculpture park on Panther Way offers a calm space to sit and relax or take a short walk. The green infrastructure features at the sculpture park would be more accurately described as a bioretention system than as a rain garden. Like the system at the Parmenter Elementary School, the depressions in the ground here are not vegetated with flowering plants, as they are meant to be able to hold large volumes of rainwater. Nonetheless, they add a dynamic element to the scenic landscape of wetlands that drain to Mine Brook, which flows into the Charles River. See if you can spot a dragonfly or perhaps an American frog while you’re here!