Lake Forest Park celebrates demo rain garden installation

Thursday, July 5, 2018

From left Jim Halliday Co-Chair StreamKeepers, Elizabeth Louden King County Grants Administrator, LFP Mayor Jeff Johnson, King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski, Mark Phillips, Co-Chair StreamKeepers and LFP City Councilmember.
Back row, Phillip Hill LFP City Administrator. Photo by Gary Hawkey

By Donna Hawkey

On Sunday, June 24, 2018, The Lake Forest Park (LFP) StreamKeepers held an event to celebrate the installation of a rain garden at Town Center.

County Councilmember Rod Dembowski
Photo by Mark Phillips

Citizens learned how the rain garden works, and how it became a reality with the help of King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski. Councilmember Dembowski said he was concerned about the streams in the North King county.

He arranged for a small Waterworks grant through the County’s Wastewater Treatment Division with no specified purpose except “to do something good for the streams.” He then called the LFP Streamkeepers to see if they had any ideas. 

After about a year of research and discussion, the LFP StreamKeepers were clear that they wanted to address the worsening problem of stormwater runoff, and decided a rain garden installation would be the best use of the grant. Waterworks grant funding comes from small charges on residents’ sewer bills and is an example of how taxpayer money gets returned to the community.

Lake Forest Park rain garden captures run off from Town Center
Photo by Gary Hawkey

A rain garden offers four distinct benefits:
  1. Pollution reduction 
  2. Flood protection 
  3. Habitat for hummingbirds and butterflies and other insects 
  4. Water Conservation
The more rain garden installations, the less stormwater runoff a municipality has to process. Treating stormwater runoff is a costly one for taxpayers, stated Councilmember Dembowski. LFP StreamKeepers hopes that housing a real-life functioning rain garden in a public place will raise awareness among citizens and lead to additional installations.

This particular rain garden is capturing stormwater runoff in the parking lot that would otherwise flow directly into Lyon Creek. According to King County, after one inch of rain, 27,000 gallons of stormwater runoff takes place in a one-acre parking lot; 675,000 gallons of treated wastewater is discharged into Puget Sound each day.
The rain garden is 15x18 feet and captures an estimated 15 cubic yards of water. It drains about .6 acre of the City Hall parking lot.

“It’s not as large an installation as we would have liked, due to cost considerations, but it is state of the art,” said StreamKeepers Co-Chair Jim Halliday.

It was installed by the Snohomish Conservation District, under the supervision of Derek Hann, who has worked closely with Washington State University’s (WSU) Stormwater Center in Puyallup. See previous article "Rain on the Rain Garden"

Merlone Geier Partners, owners of the rain garden site in the Town Center, provided support and even helped with expert landscaping advice, said LFP StreamKeepers Co-Chair and LFP Councilmember Mark Phillips.

The garden is sited next to Bank of America
Photo by Gary Hawkey
Also assisting with the installation were members of the Veterans Conservation Corps (VCC) and LFP StreamKeeper volunteers. The neighboring branch of Bank of America also helped by closing one of its drive-through lanes during construction and allowing the use of their power and water.

LFP StreamKeepers Co-Chair Halliday told the residents that “if we want to preserve salmon for our children and our grandchildren, we can’t continue like this. It’s very simple. It first begins in our hearts and our backyards.”

Stormwater runoff is a serious issue in King County. Salmon spawning streams have become increasingly polluted. During the last several decades of development on the North end, and particularly in Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood, and Lake Forest Park, impervious surfaces have increased, along with the chemical contaminates that adversely affects the water quality of LFP streams.

The sign explains how the rain garden
filters the water
Photo by Mark Phillips
Contaminants also come from residents’ backyards from the use of fertilizers and pesticides.

Other stormwater pollution is caused by bacteria from pet wastes and failing septic systems, oil, grease, coolants and metals from vehicles, soil from construction sites, soaps from car or equipment washing, and really anything else that ends up on the ground, according to King County.

The rain mixes in with all these contaminates and then flows into the nearby lakes, streams and eventually Puget Sound.

“These larger volumes of runoff impact stream structures, undercut banks and wash away gravel beds,” said StreamKeepers Co-Chair Mark Phillips.

Stewardship Partners served as fiscal agent for the rain garden project and provided signage. Rain garden information and funding for projects can be found through their 12,000 Rain Garden program.

More information about the Lake Forest Park StreamKeepers

Donna Hawkey can be reached at


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