May 15, 2006

Mayor Kay Barnes Breaks Ground on First Corporate Rain Garden in Kansas City

Kansas City’s Mayor Kay Barnes attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the first corporate rain garden affiliated with the city’s “10,000 Rain Gardens” initiative. The ceremony took place at the 8400 Ward Parkway office of B&V Water, the water business of Black & Veatch.

“The 10,000 Rain Gardens initiative is one way to reach out to the community and engage the public in a proactive and creative solution to some of our wet-weather problems,” Mayor Barnes said in her keynote address. “Through this effort, Kansas City is already being recognized as a national role model in public involvement.”

She commended Black & Veatch for its civic leadership in planting the first corporate rain garden and developing a wide-ranging employee-participation program to help tackle important environmental challenges like water quality and storm water management.

“Black & Veatch looks for engineered and natural options to solve every problem we tackle by providing communities structural and non-structural solutions,” said Dan McCarthy, president and CEO of B&V Water, in his remarks preceding the groundbreaking. “Through our B&V rain garden program, we’re going one step further and actively ‘building a world of difference’ in our own backyards, as well as globally.”

The groundbreaking for the rain garden at the Ward Parkway building initiates the first phase of Black & Veatch’s rain garden program. Future plans include a green roof garden on top of the parking lot structure and two additional rain gardens planted elsewhere on the site. Continuous enhancements are planned for the rain gardens and green roof garden during the next decade.

In the first few days after the announcement of the company’s rain gardens program, nearly 100 Black & Veatch professionals signed up to plant rain gardens at their homes or to assist with the rain garden at the company’s Ward Parkway site. Many of those “B&V Rain Garden Brigade” members attended the groundbreaking ceremony and received a starter kit with a native plant, a gift certificate and a “how to” guide for planting rain gardens. The actual digging and planting of the corporate rain garden will begin in the next few weeks, followed by another groundbreaking for a rain garden at Dan McCarthy’s Kansas City home.

To follow developments over time in the corporate and employee rain gardens, a dedicated website has been launched to “Watch Our Gardens Grow.” In the future, the website will also include a virtual chat room, called “Over the Backyard Fence,” to provide a discussion forum for company rain gardeners.

Another feature of the Black & Veatch rain garden program is the involvement of local youth from the company’s Explorer Post #2455 group. The group will sponsor a native plant sale at the Ward Parkway site in September. Black & Veatch will also hold an autumn seminar featuring lectures from master gardeners associated with Kansas City’s 10,000 Rain Gardens initiative.

The 10,000 Rain Gardens initiative links citizens, corporate sponsors, educators and members of non-profit organizations with government officials to take action on important environmental issues like water quality and storm water flow. Planting 10,000 actual rain gardens in the Kansas City area during the next few years should reduce potential problems with water pollution and stream degradation.

A rain garden is a shallow basin or depression planted with native plants. The native plants have deep roots that allow water to infiltrate into the soil. According to recent research, properly designed rain gardens can effectively trap and retain up to 99% of common pollutants in urban storm runoff, potentially improving water quality and promoting the conversion of some pollutants into less harmful compounds.

The Kansas City initiative recently was named as one of 15 nationwide finalists in the 2006 Waste Management/U.S. Conference of Mayors City Livability Awards Program. The winners will be announced at the June 3 conference in Las Vegas.