Will Rogers Elementary School: Midtown Ventura Community Council’s Adopt-A-School Project for 2013



Maryann Ridini Spencer

     Students at Will Rogers Elementary School will learn from a living laboratory created on their campus last summer with the help of Midtown Ventura Community Council’s Adopt-A-School Project for 2013.  To help prevent stormwater pollution and urban runoff, this partnership project replaced some of the school’s hard surfaces with an Ocean Friendly Garden, complete with a linear “bioswale.”  A lesson in how Mother Nature cleans and returns water to the ground, the school’s bioswale, with its sloped sides and a depressed area filled by rocks, native vegetation, mulch and organic compost, will retain stormwater and trap pollutants and silt that would otherwise would travel to the ocean.

     On Wednesday, October 2, the City of Ventura Fire Department joined Will Rogers Elementary School and other local community members to commemorate the newly landscaped areas, and to demonstrate how the new bioswale operates by releasing 500 gallons of water into the swale.

      “The Midtown Ventura Community Council approached our PTA and teacher leaders with an opportunity to bring the bioswale project to our school,” said Will Rogers Elementary School Principal Danielle Cortes.  “We worked as a team with the Ventura Unified School District facilities and leadership and involved the students and making everyone understand the importance of the bioswale — that it’s not just a garden and that it’s here to help keep our ocean clean.”

      “We’re very excited that the Will Rogers Elementary School has been surrounded by the community,” said Trudy Arriaga, Superintendent, Ventura Unified School District.  “As a result we have a beautiful example of community partnership at a bio-science academy with the children able to see how these natural systems work.”

     The Midtown Ventura Community Council’s first Adopt-A-School Project began in 2011 with the painting of Blanche Reynolds Elementary Rainbow Ridge Playground.  Solar lights were also installed in the playground.

     “The idea of the Adopt-A-School Project was originally implemented to show the community, the schools, and the children, that the community cares about them.  It’s something we could do to show our support as well as give the students pride in their school during these rough economic times,” said Dan Long, Board member of the Midtown Ventura Community Council Adopt-A-School Project. 

     Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean Friendly Garden Committee donated funds and many volunteers to work on the garden and bioswale. 

      “It’s all part of a focus of restoring the Sanjon watershed,” said Paul Herzog, Coordinator for Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean Friendly Gardens Program.  “This area, which is actually a creek that has been covered up by hard surfaces, drains right out into the ocean. So, the more that we can do to on all these hard sites to sponge up water, to hold onto water and filter it, the more chance we have to maybe restore some of these creeks and have them flow again.”

     The bioswale project was completed in two stages.  In the first stage, Landscape Architect Brian Brodersen retrofitted the existing school garden turning this area into an Ocean Friendly Garden.  The mature fruit trees were kept in place, native plants were planted and a path was added with a 100-foot long bioswale to capture the stormwater, which formerly ran into the street.

      The second stage consisted of removing 300 square feet of asphalt to build a large swale. This large swale was enhanced with native plants and rocks.

      A thank you and round of applause at the event was given to Will Roger’s First grade teacher, Kris Guzman, who was instrumental in facilitating the day’s activities. She was also acknowledged for her ongoing involvements with other programs to help green the school including securing a U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Schoolyard Wildlife Habitat Grant.

      In addition to the Midtown Ventura Community Council and Surfrider Foundation, other community members that played a key role in the bioswale project were:  The Ventura Unified School District Board of Directors, Administrators and Maintenance Supervisors, Will Rogers PTA, David Ferrin, Arketype Architects, Ojai Quarry, EJ. Harrison & Sons, Ventura Rental Center, ZDwellings Construction’s Green Builder Jeff Zimmerman and Terry Leach, Agromin, M&M Landscapes, G3 Gardens Group, and City of Ventura Enviornmental Sustainability Division and Ventura Water .


     For more information, visit Will Rogers’ Gardens at:  http://wrgardens.net

 -Maryann Ridini Spencer for SustainableVentura.TV





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