The Red Oak Rain Garden (RORG), the first rain garden on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus, was established in 2006. It’s time for a renovation to improve both aesthetics and functionality. The RORG Team, led by Illinois Extension Water Quality Specialist Eliana Brown, is managing the design and build of the project, which is expected to happen in the summer and fall of 2019 happening now! Read our blog for the latest construction updates.

RORG, supported by SSC and others, is part of the Illinois Climate Action Plan.

Located between Allen Hall and McKinley Health Center, RORG provides flood protection, improves water quality, and promotes ecological health. Prior to the garden, rainstorms limited sidewalk use and impaired the red oak. The updated design will enhance the garden’s ability to absorb rainwater in a beautiful, educational way.

RORG renovation has three project phases

Phase I: Demolition/soil preparation/hardscaping HAPPENING NOW

Phase II: Plant installation STARTS SEPTEMBER 16

Phase III: Boardwalk construction and sign installation SPRING 2020

Mission Statement and Goals

MISSION STATEMENT: The Red Oak Rain Garden is a public rain garden that soaks up rainwater, enhances the campus and community aesthetic and educational experience, and promotes well-being for everyone who visits.


1. Modernize the stormwater infrastructure to be a model for campus landscapes.

2. Provide outreach and education to campus, community, and the state of Illinois by being a venue for ecological outreach and wellness events, creating associated outreach material such as Extension brochures with a residential target audience, and providing technical information to professionals in the fields of engineering, landscape architecture and ecological restoration.

3. Reimagine the garden as an example of a living, learning laboratory enhancing the student experience. This is accomplished by installing monitoring equipment and making this data publicly available and, strengthening partnerships with faculty to encourage integration of the garden into coursework.

Meet the RORG Team

The RORG team is comprised of University of Illinois Extension staff within the College of ACES. The multidisciplinary team works on a range of water quality projects like the RORG renovation.

Eliana Brown

RORG Project Principal Investigator/Lead

Water Quality Specialist

A Water Quality Specialist with IISG and Illinois Extension ANR, Eliana Brown’s areas of expertise include green infrastructure and stormwater and wastewater programs. She leads Extension’s role facilitating the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy and is a National Green Infrastructure Certification Program (NGICP) instructor at Parkland College. Her education includes a Master’s degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering. She began her University of Illinois career working for Facilities & Services Environmental Compliance as the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) coordinator co-founding events such as Boneyard Creek Community Day. Prior to that, she was an Illinois EPA Field Inspection Engineer. Her accreditations include LEED AP, NGICP, CPESC (2014), and certified Master Gardener. She sits on several committees, such as the university’s Land and Water SWATeam and the Champaign County Conservation and Design Foundation Board.

Kate Gardiner

RORG Social Media and Student Volunteer Coordinator

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Kate Gardiner is a Visiting Extension Outreach Associate. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Earth, Society, and Environmental Sustainability in 2016 from the University of Illinois. She assists in the implementation of the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy. In addition to her work with the state’s nutrient strategy, she is a social media expert and regularly shares project updates and green infrastructure ideas via the RORG social media pages.

Layne Knoche

RORG Landscape Designer

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Layne Knoche has a Bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Illinois. In landscape design, he is most interested in conservation, preservation, and restoration of large and small-scale environmental systems and the integration of social, aesthetic, and educational aspects in those natural and built environments. Layne is also a certified Master Gardener.

Tony Heath

RORG Project Engineer

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A Professional Engineer and a recent graduate of the Masters of Urban Planning program at University of Illinois, Tony specializes in green infrastructure planning and design. In addition to the Red Oak Rain garden, Tony has been involved with both private and public green infrastructure projects across the Midwest and Southeast since 2013.

Eric Green

Construction Project Manager

Eric has a Master’s degree from the NRES department at the University of Illinois.  He is formally trained in applied economics and passed his preliminary examination on community theory. Eric has overseen and participated in the construction of 7 residential rain gardens in the Champaign-Urbana area. He led 3 teams of undergraduate students from design to implementation of those gardens.  His other teaching included Natural Resource Economics and applied social science methods in Champaign watersheds. The data captured from the applied courses has been presented to the City of Champaign and neighborhood groups on residents’ perceptions of flooding issues and green infrastructure.