Sally Ormsby's Rain Garden Party

Sally Ormsby Rain Garden Ribbon CuttingUnder an American Hornbeam tree in Annandale sits a picturesque teardrop-shaped rain garden bordered by stone and filled with woodland ferns and shrubs. It captures runoff from the Packard Center, filters out pollutants and soaks the water into the ground. In July, the rain garden was unveiled in a public ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrated as Sally Ormsby's Rain Garden Party.

Sally Ormsby photoThe new rain garden was inspired by the legacy of Sally Ormsby, an avid environmentalist and community activist who dedicated many years of service to NVSWCD and Fairfax County, and was built with contributions from her memorial fund. The rain garden was designed and installed by the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District and the Fairfax County Park Authority, in partnership with Merrifield Garden Center and with assistance from the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust and Earth Sangha.

Sally Ormsby served in leadership roles with the Conservation District, the Park Authority Park Partners, Fairfax Committee and the League of Women Voters. The residents of Fairfax County owe much to Sally for her efforts advocating for strategies to protect streams using innovative practices, including rain gardens, and campaigning for park funding through bonds. An Environmental Stewardship Award is given each year in her name and a Stream Valley Park along Accotink Creek was named in her honor.

How Do Rain Gardens Work?

Rain garden design with native plants Runoff from roads, parking lots and roofs is often dirty and hot. First, the rain garden captures the runoff. The soil and plants absorb rainwater and filter out pollutants like litter, motor oil and fertilizer. Water is released slowly from the rain garden. By the time it gets to the stream, it is cooler and much cleaner.

Carry On Sally’s Legacy: What You Can Do

Reduce Runoff

  1. Disconnect your downspout. Try extending your downspouts to a grassy area or garden.
  2. Harvest the rain. Use a rain barrel or a rain garden to capture and soak water into the ground.
  3. Soak it in. Slow down runoff, spread it out and soak it in by adding trees, plants and leaf mulch to the soil and using terraces on slopes.

Prevent Pollution

  1. Only rain in the storm drain! Storm drains lead to streams, the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay.
  2. Use less fertilizer, reduce runoff and prevent erosion. Fertilizers and sediments are the top pollutants in the Chesapeake Bay.
  3. Scoop the poop! Dog waste is one of the top sources of fecal coliform bacteria in Northern Virginia streams.
  4. Cars can be a source of toxics like motor oil and antifreeze. Keep car wash suds out of streams. Recycle oil at a service center.

Engage Your Community

  1. Organize a stream and neighborhood cleanup. Get to know your neighbors by inviting them out to clean up a local stream.
  2. Lead a storm drain marking project. Provide an everyday reminder to keep pollution out of the storm drain.
  3. Get involved. Join or start a 'Friends of' group for your community park or stream.

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