Education is the key to gaining public support for stormwater management projects. Engagement with your community is vital for helping to spread information that will keep your city’s water systems safe and clean.
We recently came across a few terrific examples of community engagement in our own backyard in Muncie, Indiana.
Muncie’s Stormwater Management Department and local organizations have been teaming up for years to help educate the citizens of East Central Indiana.
Here are just a few ways that the city has excelled at community engagement by partnering with local businesses and non-profit organizations.
1. Be Part of a Local Event
Create a presence at your local county fair or related event. Jason Donati from Muncie Stormwater Management has been doing this for years at an annual event named Garden Fair at Minnetrista, just to name one event.
The popular 2-day fair offers large tents where vendors sell garden supplies, plants, vegetables, hanging baskets, and more. They also have a full schedule of speakers and educational workshops. Jason speaks at the event on the topic of stormwater, rain barrels, rain gardens and more.
2. Installations in the Community
The Stormwater Management Department and Minnetrista have also worked together over the years to install rain gardens and green roofs throughout Minnetrista’s extensive 40-acres of gardens and beautiful landscaping. They’ve co-branded the educational signs around the rain gardens. Each organization’s website offers more information about the installations.
Installing rain barrels in various prominent places in your community (schools, community centers) is another great way to forge good relationships with the citizens of your town.
3. Host a Children’s Camp
Prairie Creek Reservoir and the Stormwater Management Department created and hosted the first annual Camp Prairie Creek in the summer of August 2009 and it’s been going strong ever since.
Camp Prairie Creek is a free youth environmental day camp for youth participants living within Muncie and Delaware County, ranging from 1st through 8th grade. The camp agenda includes water and science education, tree planting, and learning to fish.
Jason is also a frequent speaker and educator at Minnetrista’s annual children’s day camp, Camp Minnetrista. This year he showed the kids how to make their own worm composting bins.
4. Sponsor a Clean Up Day
The White River Cleanup is an annual event sponsored by Muncie’s Stormwater Management Department and organized by Muncie-Delaware Clean & Beautiful.
The two organizations team up to host a huge clean up day.
According to the department’s website, The White River Cleanup has been responsible for “removing over 72,000 pounds of trash and 500+ tires from our beautiful river in the past 6 years. It has drawn well over 2000 volunteers over the years, with last year bringing over 425 volunteers to Westside Park.”
Many partners come together and contribute on many different levels to make this event one of Delaware County's most accomplishing community work days. Such partners include the Muncie Sanitary District, the Bureau of Water Quality, the Town of Yorktown, American Rivers, Minnetrista, Ball State University, White River Watershed Project and many others.
Wessler Engineering employees worked with the city of New Haven on their fall clean-up in September 2013, as part of Wessler's Day of Giving.
5. Recognize the Stars in Your Community
Every year Muncie’s Stormwater Management Department recognizes those who stand out in the profession of construction and site management. They give an award to those who go above and beyond to comply with the expectations set forth by their department’s Construction Compliance Inspector.
The award helps to forge common goals between the city and business interests in the community: “The end goal is the same for us all, to protect the waters for future generations, while finding a workable way to do so.”
Do you have a community engagement success story to share? We would love to hear it and possibly feature it on our blog. Leave a comment below!