The sun was blazing on Aug. 16, but 27 volunteers removed over 100 cubic feet — an entire trailer full — of weeds and cattails that were invading the rain gardens and wetlands at Bradley Creek Elementary School in Wilmington.

The volunteers were from Guilford College, UNC-Wilmington’s College of Health and Human Services Department and the public. In addition to removing weeds, they also spread wheelbarrows upon wheelbarrows of mulch. The rain gardens and wetlands at the elementary school are low-impact development (LID) techniques that were installed as part of the Bradley and Hewletts Creek Watershed Restoration Plan. These improvements allow the rain gardens and wetlands to be more effective in capturing stormwater and reducing the amount of polluted runoff that makes its way into Hewletts Creek.

The Hewletts Creek watershed is currently over 85 percent developed with more than 19 percent impervious surface, or surface that is unable to be infiltrated, such as concrete. The more impervious surface a watershed has, the less areas there are for runoff to be filtered. Due in part to stormwater runoff pollution, the waters in Hewletts Creek are currently closed to shellfish harvest.

When moving over land, stormwater picks up pollutants that harm waterways. One of the goals of the plan is to reduce the flow rate so that flow levels resemble those recorded in the early 1980’s when there was less development and the creek was open for shellfish harvest.

The rain gardens serve as an outdoor classroom, as they teach parents, students and teachers alike about stormwater runoff, LID and how runoff impairs nearby waters. Signage throughout the campus explains how the rain gardens and wetlands function and how they improve water quality in the watershed by infiltrating and filtering stormwater pollution. The signs are written in both English and Spanish.

The improvements to the rain gardens and wetlands would not have been possible without the help of the wonderful volunteers! For more information about the Bradley Creek Elementary School rain gardens and wetlands, or how to get involved with volunteering, please contact Jessica Gray at (252) 393-8185.

Check out some highlights from the day!