News Features

Prairie and Rain Gardens Attract Wildlife at Sunset Zoo

K-State Engagement E-News, October 2009 (PDF)

by Alexa Hodes

Sunset Zoo Rain Garden in August 2009

Sunset Zoo Rain Garden in August 2009

Throughout the state of Kansas, low impact development (LID) and storm-water best management practices (BMPs) have had limited testing. The Sunset Zoo Kansas Plains Area Prairie and Rain Garden allows students and faculty to gain experience in the planning and design of dynamic ecological systems in an urban setting.

"The Sunset Zoo Kansas Plains Area Prairie and Rain Gardens collect and infiltrate storm-water runoff on sloping land within the Kansas Plains portion of the Sunset Zoo, showing visitors simple ways to help reduce storm-water runoff and maintain wildlife, especially for butterflies and bees," explains Lee R. Skabelund, ASLA, assistant professor, K-State Department of Landscape Architecture / Regional & Community Planning.

This demonstration garden was designed by K-State landscape architecture students (with conceptual plan and plant lists prepared by Emily King and Lee Adams in Professor Skabelund's fall 2008 planting design studio). Chris Enroth and Andy Schaap, students in Skabelund's spring 2009 advanced planting design course assisted him in executing the garden in March 2009 with Skabelund and Enroth completing the project in June 2009. Assistance was given from a number of K-State and Manhattan High School students as well as Master Gardener Greg Eyestone and Sunset Zoo staff (including Director Scott Shoemaker and maintenance personnel).

Another rain garden located on the roof of Seaton Hall"Our main goal is to demonstrate simple and cost-effective ways to make a difference in protecting streams and other aquatic ecosystems by slowing, holding, and infiltrating storm-water runoff in gardens that are designed and implemented to fit with their eco-regional and site specific contexts," explains Skabelund.

The benefits of the Sunset Zoo Kansas Plains Area Prairie and Rain Gardens are "increased understanding of what different storm-water BMPs look like, how they function, and what it takes to maintain these systems given the flows of water, materials, animals, people and propagules/seeds into or through these features," says Skabelund. Partners of the Sunset Zoo Kansas Plains Area Prairie and Rain Gardens are the Sunset Zoo staff and a number of K-State students, faculty, and staff.

Presentations have been given about the gardens at more than half a dozen conferences. Workshops have also been conducted and a guidebook for designing and implementing rain gardens is available online.

Another rain garden located on the roof of Seaton Hall