Settlers Rest Workshop Reports

The reports that follow are on the Settlers Rest Stormwater Pilot Project that were held in April and May 2015 to teach the local watershed community low-cost ways to improve their landscape and help keep Oak Creek clean.

May and June Clean Water Workshops

The May and June Clean Water Workshops at the Unity of Sedona project site were incredibly productive. Working and learning with consultants Van Clothier and Claire Catlett from Stream Dynamics, and with the help of OCWC board members, volunteers from Friends of Oak Creek and the Clean Water Crew, construction of rainwater harvesting elements quickly transformed the steep slopes of the Unity property. In order to redirect and slow stormwater pouring off of Unity’s Fellowship Hall and patio, workshop participants constructed a rock and mulch lined swale and berm. Zuni bowls along the swales allow water to collect and slowly seep into the ground; great news for the Arizona Ash orchard that lines the terraced slope. Planted under the canopy of the Ash trees are four-wing saltbush shrubs and native grasses. The plants will help stabilize the soils, retain water, add complexity to the understory of the orchard and attract lots of wonderful wildlife to the property.

To improve retention of rainwater draining off the southeast end of the Unity parking lot, workshop attendees constructed a large basin to capture and slow heavy flows. A charming cobble and sandstone lined check dam allows water from the basin as it fills to flow across the path and into a second deep swale while keeping the path from getting slick and muddy. Already this rainwater harvesting installation is slowing monsoon stormwater runoff that would typically flood the busy walkway from the parking area to the Montessori school neighboring the Unity of Sedona property. Now planted with native flowers, shrubs, and grasses (many of them whimsical perennials like Whirling Butterfly Bush and Desert Penstemon), this installation is both aesthetically pleasing and wonderfully effective at collecting and sinking runoff. We had a great turnout of volunteers for this workshop. The project progressed quickly, and with the exception of some of the mulch and the native plants, was created using resources found on-site.

July and August Clean Water Workshops

The southern slope of the Unity of Sedona property is steep, gravelly, and subject to full sun for a good portion of the day. To capture and sink water into this easily eroded location, the Clean Water Crew built several swales and basins with check dams between to encourage water from the pitched roof and collected in gutters to sink into the soil. After re-routing a drain that was sending water down the driveway, stormwater now runs down a check-dam into a basin with native shrubs and flowering plants and continues into a long series of swales and Zuni bowls planted with a diversity of native grasses to help stabilize the soil. Over the course of the workshops, heavy storms have demonstrated where the re-routed water is flowing. As is necessary with permaculture work, these storms have created opportunities to make observations, repairs, and adjustments to the installations.

Throughout the August workshops, the Clean Water Crew has continued planting each of the Green Infrastructure/ rainwater harvesting elements with native species. Additionally, the crew has worked to address some of the edges of the site property to slow parking lot runoff. On the southern end of the property, a series of Zuni bowls with multiple species of cactus, yucca, and ocotillo as well as native grasses planted atop and within. And a series of Zuni bowls filled with mulch inoculated with mycorrhizae where water from the Unity parking lot drains directly into the city drainage ditch. The inoculated mulch will work to remediate parking lot pollutants picked up by the runoff. 

The seven rainwater harvesting elements added over the course of the summer to the Unity of Sedona property are increasing the capacity for maintaining and nourishing the existing and new gardens with rainwater, slowing or stopping altogether the erosion problems the property – with its many steep slopes – has faced over the years, and mitigating sediment and pollution runoff into the culverts and city ditches running off into Carroll Canyon and subsequently Oak Creek. Many thanks to the Unity of Sedona Board of Directors, the Oak Creek Ambassadors, and the Friends of Oak Creek for providing time and human power alongside the Settler’s Rest Stormwater Pilot Project Clean Water Crew in accomplishing this work.