KALISPELL - Residents across Kalispell are helping keep pollutants out of our waters by simply gardening.
Residents are creating rain gardens as part of the Flathead Rain Garden Initiative. A rain garden is a shallow depression that is landscaped with native plants. Rainwater is diverted from impervious surfaces to the area so the plants can filter out any water pollutants before they reach local waterbodies.
Although there are only nine gardens in Kalispell so far, they are making a difference.
“I would say every rain garden makes a little bit of a difference. But a big part of it is knowing where stormwater goes, right? So, storm drains in the city typically run untreated into our local water bodies. And so just having those conversations with the residents, and then having them talk to their friends, show off their rain gardens. I think that's a big part of making the difference," said City of Kalispell Environmental Coordinator Casey Lewis.
The Flathead Conservation District, along with the City of Kalispell and Flathead Basin Commission recently held a rain garden walking tour to show citizens some of the gardens and give them a chance to talk to the gardeners about their experiences.
“I just love looking at it. Just the fact that I can go up in the mountains, and then I can go back and see 'oh yeah, here's the same exact plant, it's in my backyard.' And that's kind of cool," said Randy Hohf, owner of the first rain garden in Kalispell.
Many of the gardens that were visited on the tour required group efforts to build and when people walk by and see these unique spaces, it starts a conversation.
“There’s so much community building that can go on with something like this,” said rain garden owner Becky Groose.
The rain gardens also help support local pollinators and birds, but the main purpose is to filter out pollutants that may affect our waters.
“So the Flathead has really special water bodies that are beautiful. Doing these small actions does a little bit to help protect those water bodies and keep pollutants from reaching them and allow us to continue to enjoy those water resources for years to come," said Lewis.