Rain Garden Goes from Paper to Purpose on Wyllis Avenue

What was a neglected entry point to the Northern Strand Community Path – a stretch of pavement desecrated by National Grid for their back-door entrance during the lockout of 2018 – has gone from the drawing boards of about a dozen students at the Madeline English School to a real project carried out and functioning on Wyllis Avenue.

This Monday morning, that Rain Garden was inaugurated and celebrated by students, members of the community and business partners. Headed up by Resident Artist Carolyn Lewenberg, the Rain Garden came to life on paper long before it did in reality.

That’s because about 12 students collaborated with her starting last winter on the idea of making the little stretch near their school a little more beautiful and a little more helpful for the environment.

They began meeting last spring about what they could do, and spent the entire April Vacation Week coming to the English to work all day on designs and ideas for the Garden.

Ideas like cloud benches, a Lotus mural and a permeable rock pathway were debated and discussed. Now, those three things have been put into practice.

Student Emily Veras said designing the Rain Garden gave her an idea of what engineers do all day. She said it’s an unforgettable experience, and she hopes to work on another community project like it again.

“We made it happen and I created so many friendships and bonds that would have never happened otherwise,” she said. “Our ideas went out on paper and then came to life here…It warms my heart seeing everything come to life. It’s the only project I’ve ever worked on, but I want to create more things like this for Everett. It is definitely on my mind for the future. I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.”

Mayor Carlo DeMaria said he was proud of the students.

“You decided to take it upon yourselves to do something good for the environment,” he said. “By creating this Rain Garden, we are humbled to see young people working together in this way. It is inspiring to us older people.”

Amber Christoffersen, Greenways director for Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA), said they were excited to bring in a new generation – young people who have seen the value of protecting their natural resources.

“It’s a small scale project, but every little bit counts,” she said. “The biggest thing that happened was the youth education piece. We realize we need to seed a new generation of resident that will care for our Greenways and rivers. A project like this helps young people to see the value of these things and not to slip back to what they were.”

The Rain Garden is located at the end of Wyllis Avenue adjacent to the Wyllis Condominiums. It was formally named after long-time Conservation Commissioner (and abutter) Jon Norton.

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