Water Management Solution Project Comes to Life in Andover Township

Ryan Bills showcases his design. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Some of the crew helping Ryan Bills with his Eagle Scout rain garden project. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
A segment of the crew digs in the dirt, while Andover Township Mayor Michael Lensak donated his time in the backhoe. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
The crew assesses the project. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
The team works on a variety of tasks. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
An assortment of rain garden plants for the garden. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller

ANDOVER TOWNSHIP, NJ - A special project has come to life in Andover Township, one that will make the township a little bit greener, while keeping some of the township water bodies, a little bit cleaner.

When Andover Township resident Ryan Bills, a 16-year-old sophomore at Sussex County Technical School, who is a member of Andover Township's Boy Scout Troop 81 began investigating what to do for his Eagle Scout Project, he reached out to the Andover Township Environmental Commission for help with his project.

Bills said there were two options: working on a garden which would benefit a food bank, or to help create a rain garden in the town. Bills chose the latter idea for the rain garden.

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Over the last six months, Bills has been working on the project.

The new rain garden is located between the Andover Township Barn, and its parking lot overlooking Lake Iliff.

"The point is to take the rainwater from the gutters, and disperse it into the ground," said Bills.

Bills explained without the garden, the rain instead is directed from the parking lot, and into the lake, and an adjacent C1 (Category One) stream. A C1 stream are waters described on the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) website, as having "exceptional ecological significance."

The rain garden redirects the gutter waters into the garden, rather than into the parking lot. Waters in the parking lot have the potential to wash sediments from the parking lot, into the lake and stream, which, Bills said, can cause harm to the fish in those water bodies.

The Pinelands Nursery in South Jersey, donated $75 worth of plants, including Black-eyed Susans, and swift grass, and other plants which are water-loving.

"This is really effective stormwater management management, using natural infrastructure to manage stormwater," said Eric Olsen of the Andover Township Environmental Commission. Olsen and Christine Kretzmer have been working with Bills on the project.

Olsen explained there is a science behind the creation of the rain garden, and, the group worked with Rutgers to measure the amount of stormwater, which in turn, determined the size of the detention basin.

"We hope to turn this into an initiative," Olsen added about the project.

The rain garden by the Andover Township barn will serve as a model, for similar projects around the township, including on residential sites.

Olsen said interpretive signage will be added to the garden.

Butterflies are another addition, which are expected to be attracted to the types of greenery attracted there.

"This is the most ambitious Eagle Scout project in town," said Olsen of the efforts.

Volunteers helped throughout the day last Saturday, June 15, when the project was physically undertaken. Fellow scouts of all ages stopped by to lend a hand, as well as parents, environmental commission members, and even Andover Township Deputy Mayor Michael Lensak, who operated a backhoe during the efforts.

Andover Township FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) #177 donated funds for the project, Ag Choice (an organic recycling company in the township) donated compost, and Mulch Concepts on Limecrest Road contributed mulch to round out the new garden.

Olsen said there would be fundraising efforts in the future for similar future projects, to help out other areas of town.

"The idea is to keep the natural resources as healthy as possible," Olsen concluded.


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