Earth Day in South Bethany is a community effort

Coastal Point • Laura Walter: South Bethany volunteers got down and dirty to beautify their town on Earth Day.Coastal Point • Laura Walter: South Bethany volunteers got down and dirty to beautify their town on Earth Day.In South Bethany, a green thumb also means blue waters. Volunteers donned gardening gloves on Earth Day to landscape along the Anchorage Canal. Located next to Route 1, the canal’s forebay needed some love. The South Bethany Community Enhancement Committee and other townspeople “adopted” the canal end on April 22, planting everything from holly to petunias and native grasses.

Councilwoman Sue Callaway paused from scooping buckets of mulch to talk about the projects.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she said, expressing her gratitude to all the volunteers working nearby. She emphasized the importance of “just being involved in your community.”

For three years now, the CEC has tackled a different site each Earth Day. It also sponsors the Town’s Adopt-A-Canal program, in which volunteers maintain landscaping on canal ends in their own neighborhoods.

But the Assawoman Canal is different from most of the town’s other canals. It collects stormwater runoff from Route 1, which brings with it potential pollution from northern South Bethany, Middlesex Beach, Sea Colony and the southern tip of Bethany Beach.

That day’s planting was a nibble among the many little projects planned for the watershed. South Bethany is designing eight more retrofit projects in the Sandpiper Pines neighborhood — a mixture of rain gardens and infiltration trenches.

The rain gardens, or bio-retention areas, are just like the gardens already placed inside the Route 1 medians in the town. They’re beautiful, but they serve a purpose by collecting pools of rainwater and filtering them naturally though plants and the ground.

The infiltration trenches are underground, completely filled with rocks, but covered with gravel and perhaps light landscaping. Rainwater fills the underground trenches and soaks out naturally through the bottom and sides. Councilman George Junkin said it does not compromise the ground’s overall stability.

“The purpose of all these things is slow [water] down, give time for nutrients and sediment to come out,” said Junkin, head of the Town’s Canal Water Quality Committee.

Meanwhile, the Anchorage garden and nearby future rain gardens will add color, beauty and wildlife habitat.

The Center for Inland Bays added its stamp to the Earth Day event by dedicating a new information board in the Anchorage garden. It explains the ongoing stormwater improvement projects, such as the medians.

“It’s a good opportunity to educate people on stormwater. This is a demonstration project area,” explained Chris Bason, CIB executive director.

The sign also commemorates the ongoing partnership between the CIB and South Bethany as they work to address issues related to the town’s environment.