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rafiyqa muhammad rain garden

Rafiyqa Muhammad, CBF Rain Garden Maintenance Specialist, tends a rain garden in Harrisburg, PA.

B.J. Small/CBF Staff

2018 Year in Review

Leveraging Nature's Filters

Garden mud, rain, and rocks were Rafiyqa Muhammad's playground growing up in south Harrisburg. Years later, she's still playing in the dirt, as the new Rain Garden Maintenance Specialist for CBF's Pennsylvania Office. Funding for Muhammad's work comes from a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Environmental Education Grant, matched by CBF donors. Clean-water projects that Muhammad will help manage include five newly dedicated parks and playgrounds with green infrastructure like rain gardens, porous basketball surfaces, and underground drainage to manage polluted runoff and flooding. These parks are designed to empower and educate people in urban areas of Harrisburg, Lancaster, and York to improve water quality and beautify their communities.

Muhammad is optimistic about the positive effects rain gardens can have on polluted runoff and society. "Two blocks from the rain gardens, you have drug dealing and prostitution in alleys," Muhammad said. "But the people are excited we're putting gardens in. They'll protect them. Children from places like the Boys & Girls Club will help."

A wet year really shows the value of Harrisburg's rain gardens. They turn all that water into trees, food, and hope.

– Rafiyqa Muhammed, Rain Garden Maintenance Specialist, Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Polluted runoff from developed land is a leading source of stream pollution in Pennsylvania. Pollutants are carried by rain from roofs, streets, and parking lots and flow into nearby streams, threatening wildlife, recreation, and human health. Polluted runoff collected in rain gardens soaks into the ground where it is filtered and helps grow native plants, reducing the need for water and fertilizer.

Muhammad still loves getting her hands in the dirt, working between two and three city acres in raised beds and gardens. No stranger to Harrisburg's environmental and social challenges, Muhammad sits on the city's Environmental Council. "Sometimes we have to look at things and turn it into a positive. I'm tired of what I see, the crime, the poverty. This rain garden project to me is something hopeful."

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