Grounded GSI A-42 East Hills

The rain gardens at the Park Hill Drive community in East Hills were beautiful and vibrant during the summer, just in time to absorb significant stormwater from the rainy weather that the Pittsburgh region has been experiencing.

Community Context

Over the course of several charrettes, Grounded Strategies worked with residents of the Park Hill Drive community to design a rain garden system that can both capture roof runoff and beautify an underutilized section of the community’s common property.

Project Overview 

East Hills Liason –¬†Thomas Watkins

Thomas serves as our eyes and ears in the community. He helps us to understand and address resident concerns, as well as assisting in convening community design meetings.



An important aspect of Green Stormwater Infrastructure is appropriate placement. Before deciding what plants to place, or what sort of medium to use in the garden, we first examined a site plan to determine the best location in which to place our rain gardens. We went through several design drafts, eventually arriving at a total of 4 rain gardens on site. Here’s one of the locations prior to installation:


The main function of the rain gardens in East Hills is to absorb and percolate stormwater into the surrounding landscape. In order to achieve this function, the next task in their implementation is the excavation of the compacted clay soil that underlays the site.

Adding the Media

Since the native soil in this area is very clay rich (low permeability), we opted to import a media mixture which included a high proportion of sand (high permeability), as well as compost (for water retention and nutrients). With just a casual glance, you can immediately tell the difference in quality between the native and imported soils.


Finally, the most exciting part of the process: planting! We selected species for these rain gardens that enjoy the stormwater boom/bust of Pittsburgh’s climate. Plants like echinacea, rudbeckia, and irises make perfect additions to rain gardens because they can drink up lots of water when it’s available, yet have root systems and storage organs capable of sustaining them during times of drought.

Next Steps

As we work toward completion of this project, we’ll tie the largest of our rain gardens on site into a nearby parking lot catch basin, which will allow us to infiltrate an even greater amount of water into the soil, thereby keeping it out of the combined sewer, and ultimately lowering the cost you pay for sewage treatment. Please stop by the Park Hill Drive community and enjoy the sight of your expenses getting lower as the plants grow taller!