Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Farmingdale-based Citizens Campaign for the...

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Farmingdale-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment, at a rain garden along Bluff Point Road outside the Northport Yacht Club on July 7. Credit: Jeff Bachner

Along a stretch atop Bluff Point Road in Northport Village, three areas on the roadside now thrive with a variety of native plants and flowers.

The vegetation of shrubs and flowers includes purple coneflower and fox sedge grass and are designed to be a green solution to address water pollution, said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Farmingdale-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment. The gardens capture and filter contaminants from polluted stormwater runoff before they enter Northport Harbor and eventually Long Island Sound. Rain gardens, environmentalists say, help improve water quality and keep the harbor clean.

Esposito said the Bluff Point Road watershed, where the gardens are planted, was known to have stormwater rushing down the road before it entered the harbor. 

“This location was the ideal site for these gardens,” she said. “These gardens are constructed to capture 15,000 gallons of rainwater with each rainfall and filter it before it flushes into the harbor.”

Esposito's group partnered with the Northport Yacht Club and the Village of Northport to create the gardens, which are jointly owned by the village and club.

The gardens that were planted this spring in front of the Northport Yacht Club are already doing their part.

Stephanie Quarles, who was involved in getting the project established, said a longtime employee of the club has for years noted stormwater running through the club's parking lot, picking up debris and going into the harbor.

“Once these went in, he’s not noticing that anymore at all,” said Quarles, who is a member of the club.

Esposito said the problem with stormwater is that as it runs down the road it collects pollutants such as nitrogen, pesticides, fertilizers and bacteria.

“So you want it to be filtered before it enters the harbor,” she said.

The design of the gardens allow the water to seep into the soil and filter out contaminants.

“Then the plants utilize the nitrogen nutrient before it goes into the harbor where it’s actually considered a pollutant,” she said. 

Esposito said club members were concerned about the volume of water that would run down the road unfiltered into the harbor. 

In May, volunteers installed hundreds of plantings in the gardens.

Populating the gardens are native grass such as fox sedge, prairie dropseed and switchgrass. Perennials include butterfly weed, blue false indigo, purple coneflower and New York aster. Dwarf bush honeysuckle and inkberry are among the shrubs that dot the landscape. 

Esposito said a consulting firm was hired to design the garden and to provide a strategic planting plan with native vegetation. She said the garden areas were excavated slightly and filled in with “good” soil to ensure successful plant growth and drainage.

The project was funded through a $38,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Long Island Sound Futures Fund.

Northport Village Mayor Donna Koch said because of the topography of the village with its narrow and sloping streets, managing stormwater runoff and keeping the harbor clean is a major issue.

“These gardens are very important to Northport Harbor,” she said. “It will filter out 9.5 pounds of nitrogen; that’s a big savings to the harbor and the surrounding area, and the bay.”

Green infrastructure

A rain garden is described as a vegetated area designed to capture and retain stormwater so that plants may absorb the water. These areas are often outfitted with underdrains, overflows or other engineering devices to cope with extreme storm events.

Northport rain gardens by the numbers

  • 15,000 gallons of stormwater will be captured and treated before it goes into Northport Harbor
  • 9.5 pounds of nitrogen removed before it enters Long Island Sound
  • 1 inch of rainfall captured and recharged

Source: Citizens Campaign for the Environment

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