After attending a presentation about stormwater runoff, nuns of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) congregation in Scranton became concerned about pollution harming the nearby Lackawanna River. They wanted to do something to reduce stormwater runoff from the impermeable surfaces on the IHM property, which includes a church and community center.
An opportunity arose during the construction of an expansion to the community center and an additional parking lot. Inspired by their mission to protect God’s creation and armed with newfound knowledge about pollution caused by stormwater runoff, the sisters incorporated a number of nature-based stormwater solutions into the design:
- Permeable pavement in the parking lot, which allows water to soak through the pavement and into the soil.
- Rain gardens in strategic locations planted with native flowers and shrubs, which absorb water and attract wildlife like birds and butterflies.
- A new drainage system that diverts runoff into a wetland area behind the buildings.
With help from ESF funding, the project went from idea to reality. The permeable pavement, rain gardens, and new drainage system absorb and filter thousands of gallons of runoff. This helps keep nearby water sources like the Lackawanna River—and faraway ones like the Chesapeake Bay—clean and safe for drinking, swimming, and fishing. Plus, the blooming flowers and singing birds make the IHM property a more beautiful, peaceful place for the sisters and visitors alike.
For the sisters of IHM, this successful project was just the beginning.
“In the days and years ahead our hope is to truly make this a place of welcome to all,” said Sister Jean Coughlin. “Certainly to our human neighbors, but also to the birds, frogs, bees, butterflies, and plants who will make this home.”