St. Mary’s Ethiopian Orthodox Church

Your Guide
Rachel Hill, ASLA

St. Mary’s Ethiopian Orthodox Church struggled with flooding during winter rains. It sits directly adjacent to Johnson Creek, a major urban riparian corridor and watershed in the city, which overflows during heavy downpours. Concrete solutions were too costly, and church members didn’t have much experience with natural solutions. In collaboration with local non-profits, Depave, Green Lents, the City of Portland, and the Johnson Creek Watershed Council, the church transformed 2,500 square feet of impermeable surface parking into a rain garden. A swale, which is filled with native plants, collects and infiltrates stormwater.

The results have been positive for the church, the community, and the watershed. The church hasn’t flooded since the installation. They have also seen a 78 percent reduction in their monthly stormwater bill through the Clean River Rewards program. Allowing stormwater to infiltrate on site puts less stress on municipal systems and allows natural systems to function.

St. Mary’s stormwater gardens helped create a positive view of green infrastructure in an economically-stressed area of Portland where people often have the misconception that “green” solutions may be expensive and thus unattainable.

Augmented green space has clearly benefited the community. The project empowered the congregation to look for collaborative partners and create their own solution.

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