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Te list went on, and my goal was to present a number of options that required degrees of involvement ranging from slight to intensive. We had a chance of appealing to the widest possible range of participants while respecting their budgets and priorities. My desire was to demonstrate how we could collectively put a stake in the ground for the cause of resource management – and show how a small town of no more than 9,000

people could make a real difference.

It might seem surprising that all of this took place in the Chicago suburbs where we receive a robust average rainfall of 40 inches each year. Given that abundance, it wouldn’t seem that capturing water would be as crucial as it might be in a more arid place. We went into the meeting thinking we’d have a hard time persuading people that wise water use was important everywhere, even where it’s plentiful.

We even discussed the runoff issue on a larger scale, getting into a discussion of the value of reducing our runoff because it eventually flowed into the Fox River and then eventually into the Mississippi River.

Coming out of the meeting, I thought we’d be fortunate if a dozen or so homeowners participated (roughly 10 percent of the neighborhood). Within just a few days, however, a total of 30 homeowners agreed to participate!

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As might be expected, there was quite a range of projects within that group of 30, from expansive pond/stream compositions with planted wetlands to simple pondless water features or rain barrels. Tere were also a few who focused entirely on managing runoff and had no greater interest than in trying out the permeable patio concept.

We meant to install all of the systems in a single day in August 2009 with a network of Aquascape certified contractors from across the U.S. With that implausible goal in mind, we set to work right away, designing each installation and doing site-preparation work in anticipation of the big day.

When installation day finally arrived, it was something to behold. A massive, organized stampede of enthusiastic and capable pond/stream specialists energetically crawling over the neighborhood, spreading gravel, installing plants and placing rocks and interacting warmly with residents and treating the event like a massive and exhausting celebration of aquatic potential.

From the outset, the community’s energy and acceptance defined the process. Te homeowners and city officials made this project a success – so much so that some of the 30 homes have since been included in garden tours, other homeowners have signed up for systems of their own.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that since we installed all of the Sugar

Grove systems, our neighborhood has seen a notable increase in its populations of birds, butterflies and other beneficial insects, and terrestrial creatures. It seems the human residents around here aren’t the only ones who know a good thing when they see it!

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