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 Eliana Brown, Water Quality Specialist with Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and Illinois Extension, is managing the design and build of the project, which just completed phases I and II as of October 2019. 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 serves as a model for ecologically healthy landscapes. Prior to the garden, rainstorms limited sidewalk use and impaired the red oak. The updated design enhances the garden’s ability to absorb rainwater in a beautiful, educational way.

Project phases

Phase I: Demolition/soil preparation/hardscaping COMPLETED

Phase II: Plant installation COMPLETED See our plant list!

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

Visiting Extension Outreach Associate

As a Visiting Extension Outreach Associate, Kate shares project updates and green infrastructure ideas via RORG’s social media outlets. She assists in the implementation of the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy as well. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Earth, Society, and Environmental Sustainability in 2016 from the University of Illinois and sits on Illinois Extension’s Energy & Environmental Stewardship team.

Layne Knoche

RORG Landscape Designer

Visiting Extension Outreach Associate

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

Academic Hourly

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.

Meet the Collaborators

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.

Karen Folk

Master Naturalist Lead

Karen is the lead Master Naturalist on the RORG project. Karen has a Ph.D. in Family and Consumption Economics and taught consumer economics at the University of Illinois. As an East Central Illinois Master Naturalist, she volunteers to maintain the garden. Now that she is retired, she is able to spend more time hiking, gardening, spending time with family, and backpacking in the mountains.

Carl Carman

Carbon Sequestration Consultant

Carl earned his B.S. in Geology at the University of Illinois.  He is a research specialist in petroleum geology at the Illinois State Geological Survey, where he works on data mining and carbon sequestration projects. He is working with the RORG team to determine the amount of carbon the plants will sequester.