Niles Community Rain Garden

The State and Regionally recognized Niles Community Rain Garden celebrated a 10-year anniversary in 2018.  Located at 7114 W. Touhy Avenue, it has been the site of numerous community events and organizational collaborations. The Niles Community Rain Garden was the linchpin of the Village’s environmental stewardship efforts that began in 2008.     

The Niles Community Rain Garden project began as a water sustainability collaboration between the Village of Niles and Coca-Cola Bottling Company. This first of three phases was installed on June 3, 2008.  CLICK HERE to view a slideshow video produced by Coca-Cola to celebrate the event, and view the Village-produced video below to see even more of the work that brought the Rain Garden to life.  Through this public/private partnership, the Village of Niles is now the home of what Brook McDonald of the Conservation Foundation referred to as “the largest functioning rain garden in all of Cook County.” 

By the spring of 2009, interest in Niles Community Rain Garden project grew with volunteers, sponsorships, and grants. The first grant to come in for the project was $5,000 from the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) Blue Water Project, which focuses on fostering a culture of water stewardship. Following this grant were generous donations from the Niles Lions Club, Groot Industries, ComEd, and Home Depot. Pizzo Ecological Restoration provided free professional services by strategically placing and preparing the native plants and training volunteers how to properly plant the seedlings and plugs. The most significant support the second year came in the form of an in-kind donation of labor and construction from Chris’ Landscape - a local Niles business. The company’s owner, who is also a Niles resident, spent an entire day grading the site for proper drainage and constructing 470 linear feet of pervious pathway.

Rain Garden overview map

Since installation, the Niles Community Rain Garden has been a popular gathering place for Arbor Day, Earth Day, and other special sustainability themed events. To date, the site contains 2,800 square feet of rain garden, 1,800 square feet of prairie grasses, and over 4,000 native forbs and grasses that absorb and naturally filter stormwater runoff from 36,000 square feet of nearby impervious surface. Five trees native to Illinois were planted onsite: three Pin Oaks and two White Oaks (State Tree).  The project has been recognized by the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Open Lands, Chicago Wilderness, the Conservation Foundation, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, the Northwest Municipal Conference, the Center of Neighborhood Technology, and Living Habitats.

The most impressive aspect of the Niles Community Rain Garden is how it has encouraged neighbors, businesses, schools and community groups to work together for a common purpose - water sustainability. Besides the countless hours of volunteers who planted thousands of native plant plugs and pulled just as many weeds, there were those businesses and community organizations that provided over $40,000 in in-kind contributions and donations. 

The most important goal of the Niles Community Rain Garden project is education. Educational material has been created that provides step-by-step instructions on how to install a rain garden at your home, businesses and school. This material also discusses the importance of native plants, rain garden habitat and water sustainability. In the fall of 2011, educational trail signs were installed for visitors to learn about the project and to help inspire them to build a similar project at their home, business or school.  In 2015, staff native plant enthusiast Katy Darr volunteered to harvest the garden of native seeds and create “Niles Community Garden Native Seed Mix” packets appropriately labeled and branded with the Village’s “It’s Possible Here.”  

As a side note, the Village of Niles Community Rain Garden is a successful project and cutting edge sustainability exercise that has ultimately resulted in the Village’s recognition as a regional leader in water sustainability and native plant use.  The Niles Community Garden can be directly linked to the Village being awarded over $500,000 from the State of Illinois, MWRD, and ComEd for the Neva Bioswale, Oakton Bioswale/Pervious Parking, and the Pollinator Garden. 

Additional Information
Niles Community Rain Garden Informational Pamphlet
Rain Gardens and Native Plantings: A Step-By-Step Guide
CMAP Niles Rain Garden Flyer

Interested in Volunteering at the Rain Garden?
If you are interested in being a Rain Garden volunteer, please contact the Village of Niles at 847-588-8010.