More than a rain garden

2019 Rain Garden August 2

Tucked between South Park Street and Newville Park, you will find a rain garden. At first glance, it may seem like a simple collection of native pollinator plants, but after digging a little deeper, you will realize it is much more than just a rain garden.

The garden is located at the Catholic Multicultural Center (CMC) on Madison’s south side. A dedicated group of CMC staff and community members designed and created the garden as part of their environmental programming. More than five years later, the rain garden continues to add tremendous value—beyond its environmental benefits.

“This rain garden project is something from the community. It’s for people to learn from and be inspired by.”

Antonio Quintanilla, CMC Services Coordinator
2019 Rain Garden August 2
Rain garden at the Catholic Multicultural Center on Madison’s South Side

Partnering for sustainability

The project began with help from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Earth Partnership, which aims to collaborate with diverse communities to create vibrant outdoor learning spaces. The community created the garden during three workshops and four work days. More than 50 community members contributed to the project. Participants learned about the environmental benefits, designed educational signs to post around the garden, and built the garden on the property.

“Earth Partnership was the spark that got us started and enabled us to implement an environmental program.”

Laura Green, CMC Grants and Volunteer Coordinator

Diversity, education, and action

Quintanilla said the environmental movement is not very diverse or representative of the people served by the CMC. Therefore, the organization offered Spanish and English programs and workshops. This step allowed everyone to get involved.

“The very people we are serving are the most impacted by environmental issues.”

Laura Green, CMC Grants and Volunteer Coordinator

Beyond the rain garden project, the CMC has done neighborhood and creek cleanups and provided education and awareness on environmental issues.

2019 Creek Clean-up 11
Wingra Creek cleanup with participants from the Catholic Multicultural Center

Since 1964, the CMC has operated on Madison’s south side to provide essential programs and services to community members. Today, the CMC offers a variety of programs addressing basic needs, education and employment, immigration legal services, and environmental programs.

Over the past five years, the CMC’s rain garden has been more than just a rain garden. It has been an educational tool. It’s a jumpstart for other community rain gardens in the city, and a beautiful way to help protect our waters.

Read more from our 2020 Greater Madison Lake Guide.

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