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Library Park Rain Garden

A Big Impact for Little Cost

In 2013, employees from the City of Fort Collins identified an unsightly and hazardous drainage problem in the parking lot near Library Park at 207 Peterson St. After every rainstorm, the sloped lot would become a standing pool of debris, water, oil and chemicals from vehicles and rain runoff.

Fort Collins Utilities' Stormwater Utility and Poudre River Libraries staff recognized this problem as an opportunity to improve the existing landscape and solve drainage issues by building a rain garden using a technology known as Low Impact Development (LID).

Stormwater staff collaborated with the Libraries, Utilities' Water Conservation and Parks departments to restore the area into three rain gardens filled with native landscapes.

To minimize costs and overall impacts to the park, crews also leveraged an existing sidewalk and landscape-improvement project planned by the Poudre River Library. The City's Innovation Fund, in addition to funds from the Water Conservation and Stormwater departments, paid for the project.

Beyond the improved aesthetics, benefits include safety, water conservation, enhanced drainage and improved water quality. Signage in the garden serves as an educational tool for visitors.

How it works

Rain and snowmelt run off nearby building roofs and hard surface areas. Instead of pooling in the parking lot, the runoff is directed into a series of three rain gardens - landscaped plants and rocks - that are built on top of underground storage basins.

The water nourishes the landscape areas in these rain gardens and is filtered through the soil as it enters the first storage basin. As the first basin fills, silt and debris are gathered in a forebay - a small, contained area that maintenance crews can easily access and clean - while water is moved to a larger basin.

The water in that basin then travels under the sidewalk to a third basin - all of which irrigate the landscape above. When the three basins are full, overflow spills onto the grass nearby. Stored stormwater in the underlying basins evaporates, providing a cooling mechanism in the hotter months and reducing heat island effects, or pockets of space that are hotter than nearby areas.


Library Park prior to renovation.


Library Park Rain Garden after renovation