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Groundwork New Orleans : Rain Gardens 

Rain gardens:

planted systems to capture rainwater and direct it to a garden environment

The Central City community is making small, progressive steps to revitalize the neighborhood — from the opening of the Euterpe Recycling facility, the Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center's diverse programming, plans for bike-friendly neighborhood development and at the Ashe Cultural Arts Center (1712 & 1720 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., 957-4616; www.ashecac.org), a refuge for African-American culture, performance and educational tools. Now, the center and Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard feature several rain gardens provided by Groundwork New Orleans, a partnership with the National Park Service and Environmental Protection Agency. The program beautifies areas impacted by brownfields — abandoned industrial properties with potential contaminants or blight — as in this case of Central City. Apart from featuring a diverse selection of native plant species, the rain gardens capture a free resource (rain water) and divert it from storm drains into a garden's topsoil. By directing water away from storm drains, which can get clogged during heavy rain and erode or disrupt the ecosystems it drains into, the gardens essentially reduce the use of pumping stations (which Groundwork says account for 40 percent of municipal greenhouse gas emissions in New Orleans), filtering pollutants and improving the water quality in Lake Pontchartain. The center unveiled the gardens last week with a tour and instructional workshops. Visit www.groundworknola.org for more information on Groundwork initiatives. — Alex Woodward

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