by Layne Knoche, Project Landscape Designer

This post covers Wednesday, September 4th.

Howdy! One of these days, we’ll find something other than “Today was another productive day at the Rain Garden” to start our blogs, but for now, that’s what you’re gonna get! But as the title states…it was also an impressive day.

Concrete work began on the expansion of the north sidewalk around 8:00 a.m. From the truck parked in the Allen Hall turnabout, the crew used Power Buggies to pour load after load of fresh concrete into the sidewalk forms.

Tony has written about how watching the concrete finisher crew is like watching a band play with everyone knowing their part and working in time. This is absolutely true. I’ll add that it’s mesmerizing and surprisingly soothing to watch them smooth out the concrete.

But we didn’t just watch them work. The RORG team (Eliana, Kate, Tony, and I) kept busy explaining the meaning of “Sidewalk Closed” to people trying to cut through. We missed one person who traversed through the line of cones, caution tape and barricades and walked right into the fresh concrete. Fortunately, the concrete finishers were right there and smoothed it back over. Unfortunately, the shoes are goners. RIP. 

A few weeks ago, Eliana saw a sidewalk that had leaf impressions. She sought (and was granted) approval for RORG to add this feature from the campus Architectural Review Committee, headed by Brent Lewis. Then, she contacted concrete finisher foreman Eric Knisely to ask his advise on the best way to accomplish it. Turns out, he has experience with it, so we knew we were in good hands. She asked me, as the project designer, to select and place the leaves.

After the fresh concrete was smoothed, I worked with concrete finisher Craig Harris to press a pair of Red Oak leaves into the north boardwalk landing. Similarly, in the far southern extent of the expanded sidewalk, a pair of Sycamore leaves were pressed in. Eric Knisely and the rest of the crew swept the sidewalk with a broom for the final surface finish. After the concrete set up, the leaves were removed, revealing great results. I think Eliana may have cried a few happy tears.

The bulk of the work on the expanded north sidewalk was done by lunch.

Illinois Extension’s Matt Wiley was with us throughout the morning taking videos of various things happening in the garden. This included a great video of the freshly revealed Red Oak leaf stamps.

While concrete work was being done, the operating engineer (not Stephanie – but I didn’t catch his name), Josh, and our own Tony Heath worked on the fringes of both cells to pull back mulch and distribute topsoil on the inside edge of the crushed granite border. This soil will help ensure that the metal edging will have support and give our plants a little more root space. Once this was done, the mulch was pulled back over and smoothed.

It’s fun to see and listen to the passerby who stop to look at the garden build. We overheard this parent telling his child all about Illinois’ water table and why rain gardens are important. Teach ’em young! We couldn’t be prouder to be a part of providing this educational experience for visitors.

Kate and I met Tony at the garden in the early afternoon to take demonstration videos that will show how to install plants. With a drill and auger in hand, we documented the process of moving mulch, digging the hole, and planting the plug. These videos will be included in a larger presentation that will be given to RORG volunteer orientation.

Special thanks to the Facilities & Services concrete crew – you’re the best! Tony Heath will be back with tomorrow’s update.