WHAT’S GOING ON? Watauga High School Students Build Hardin Creek Water Garden

Published Friday, September 25, 2015 at 2:18 pm

By Troy Brooks

Watauga High School students and the Hardin Creek Partnership have banded together this fall to build the school’s first rain garden near the front office. The rain garden is the first project in the partnership that will improve the Hardin Creek Watershed. WHS student are playing a huge role in the garden’s construction including members of the school’s construction and agriculture/horticulture classes, the WHS sustainability Club, and the Mountain Alliance.

Jason Matthew and his construction class, Laura England and Brian Chatham at the rain garden site.

The Hardin Creek watershed is a 1.5 sqmi area of land that drains to Hardin Creek, a tributary to the South Fork of the New River. More than one-quarter of this watershed has been covered in pavement, concrete, rooftops, and other surfaces that have impacted the health of the creek.

“This creek drains a heavily urbanized watershed,” said Laura England, Laura England, Lecturer in ASU’s Department of Sustainable Development and Outreach Coordinator for ASU’s Southern Appalachian Environmental Research & Education Group. “Boone is a small community but this creek drains a lot of our urban area, including New Market Center and 194. A third of the land area is covered by what we call impervious surfaces such as pavement, sidewalks and rooftops. The water isn’t traveling through the ground to the creek like it naturally would its going over the pavement and into the storm sewer system and very quickly into the creek carrying with it pollutants and a lot of energy that erodes the stream bed and banks.”

Hardin Creek shows symptoms of urban stream syndrome according to England. The watershed experiences flashy flows when it rains, eroding stream banks and streambeds, unstable habitats, and just a few tolerant creek critters can live there. In short, this creek’s health is in decline.

Community Stakeholders have banded together to improve conditions in Hardin Creek through watershed management and stream restoration. The rain garden at Watauga High is the first on the-ground project aimed at improving the environmental health of the watershed.

Rain Gardens are attractive landscape features that work as natural filters soaking up and cleaning urban runoff. They also hold bioretention soils which are formulated to maximize filtration functions and are planted with native plans. Benefits of rain gardens include:

  • Reducing the affects of flooding and erosion downstream
  • Removing pollution from runoff
  • Providing an attractive landscape
  • Providing a habitat for birds, butterflies and other urban wildlife

The WHS rain garden will drain about 3,800 sqft of parking lot at WHS.

“While the rain garden will filter only a small portion of urban runoff to Hardin Creek, we believe it has great educational value as a demonstration project,” said England. “Located in front of the school by the ticket office for the athletic fields, the rain garden will be visible to WHS students and their families as well as visitors to the campus. We hope that it will inspire lots of people in our community to think differently about how we manage runoff so that we can project the values of our waterways that we all care about such as clean drinking water, healthy trout populations, and high quality recreational opportunities.”

Plans for the garden began at the beginning of the year.

“We met real early and came out here in January and February and worked with the school’s Mountain Alliance group to identify a site,” said Brian Chatham of Watauga Soil & Water. “Then my department came in with some funding and started paperwork with the county and school board in March. We taught the students about the watershed and the impacts of rain gardens and now we’ve finally begun construction.”

Construction on the rain garden started about two weeks ago. While the weather has been a factor thanks to the recent rain, the silk fence has been set up and WHS construction students are now busy working on the excavation for the site.

“I have my construction class out here for three hours in the morning so we get a lot done,” said construction teacher Jason Matthews. “This double block allows us to come out and do a substantial amount of work. These students have been up through the ranks in all the classes. They have a good basic knowledge of what is going on so they know how to set up a transit, operate the backhoes and all the equipment needed.”

The student involvement is also a significant part of this project. While the garden is just the first project for the Hardin Creek Watershed, England believes that will have a significant impact on the area and the students of Watauga High.

“These kinds of projects, if they are done just by a construction firm, they can be done quickly,” said England. “But the student involvement is, I think, one of the most valuable aspects of this project. They’re getting a chance to do a different kind of project than they would, to think about storm water in a different way, and they can carry that forward if they continue on towards a career in construction. The student involvement is just fantastic and we’ve been pleased by the support that principal Marshall Gasperson has given to the project.”

“I think the project’s good because it’s going to help clean the water and help the creek out.” said senior student Caleb Winkler.  “It’s great that they’re having students working. I work about two and a half hours out here when it’s not raining”

“I think it’s a good opportunity to do something different from our usual projects in carpentry,” said senior student Devein Hollar.

Laura England hopes to have some future projects in the watershed.

“We aim to get this one done first,” said England. “The goal is that we’ll continue to work in this watershed bit by bit with some cumulative improvements in the creek.”

Matthews plans to have the garden finished by the end of the Oct. as long as the weather holds out. The garden will then be planted with native plants and flowers by the school’s agriculture department headed up by Olivia Watson and the schools’ sustainability club. The garden will be maintained by the Mountain Alliance, the sustainability club and Olivia Watson’s classes.

For more information on the Hardin Creek Partnership, visit saerec.appstate.edu/outreach/hardincreekpartnership


Hardin Creek Stakeholders

Participants in discussion about how to improve Hardin Creek include representatives of:

Watauga High School

Appalachian State University

NC Cooperative Extension, Watauga Co. Office

New River Conservancy

Mountain Alliance

Trout Unlimited- Stone Mountain Chapter

Watauga County- Planning & Inspections

Watauga County Soil and Water

Town of Boone- Planning & Inspections

Town of Boone- Public Works


Watauga High Schools construction students install the silt fence alongside construction teacher Jason Matthews and Brian Chatham of Watauga Soil & Water.


Jason Matthew’s students begin the rain garden’s excavation stage.


Students work on the excavation process.

280 x 540
Privacy Policy | Rights & Permissions | Discussion Guidelines

Website Management by Outer Banks Media