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Great Plains LID Research and Innovation Symposium and Low Impact Development Design Competition

Overcoming Roadblocks to Establishing Rain Gardens in Tulsa

Kevin Gustavson, Sustainability Specialist, Howell & Vancuren, Inc.

Scott VanLoo, Streets and Stormwater Operations Manager, City of Tulsa

Bill Robison, Lead Engineer, Stormwater Project Coordination, City of Tulsa

Graham Brannin, Planning and Intergovernmental Administrator, Water and Sewer, City of Tulsa

Steve Granthan, Operations Director, Up With Trees

Track: Policy


Interest in bioretention has increased recently in Tulsa.  The nonprofit Up With Trees aims to offer rain gardens as a new holistic option for donors and plans to establish a prototype.  City staff, motivated by Stormwater Discharge Permit requirements, aims to facilitate and promote municipal and private projects.  As a result, up to three downtown rain gardens may soon be built, plus one at the Stormwater office.  The launch of these projects has involved 1) finding sites that would benefit from bioretention, be large enough to handle the load, and have public visibility, and 2) educating and garnering support from the right players to help implement and fund the initiatives.  Where soils are inadequate for significant infiltration, one challenge has been finding and testing a suitable (ideally local) bioretention media for drainage and pollutant removal capability.  Other challenges have involved property ownership, funding, political will, plant availability, and timing.

Rain gardens have been successfully installed in Tulsa through public workshops.  The first Water-Wise Workshop, held at a church in late 2012, used participants to build onsite rain gardens and provided instruction for building them at home.  The onsite rain gardens were funded with workshop fees and materials provided by the City of Tulsa.  Some participants later built rain gardens at home.  Future workshops will lead to new native soil rain gardens at participants’ homes and at workshop locations, including upcoming workshops at the Tulsa Zoo, which has committed money for a rain garden and educational signage near the zoo entrance.