The event was ostensibly about the three new rain gardens in the Creighton-Home neighborhood. But person after person kept talking about something else.
It started with Mayor Tom Henry: Its really about showing off what neighbors can do when they work together, he said.
Next came Cheri Becker from Leadership Fort Wayne, which helped in the project. She didnt really talk about the rain gardens, either.
Our goal was to create an opportunity for neighbors to work together and work with the city, Becker said.
Then came the district city councilman, Geoff Paddock, who said the effort is the kind of thing we want to see more of throughout the city.
Even Creighton-Home Neighborhood Association President Darrell Kimdschy said it wasnt his efforts, but the dedication of association members who worked for nearly two years on the project, that made it happen.
Those efforts began with residents attending workshops through Leadership Fort Waynes Best Practices Neighborhood Initiative. They applied for, and received, a $50,000 Community Development Block Grant to turn three vacant lots into rain gardens.
The lots had been covered with lawn grass, which will absorb only about an inch of rain before becoming saturated and creating as much runoff as concrete.
With an area hit hard by a flash flood in 2002 just a block from one of the gardens at Fox and Grace streets, residents know more than theyd like to about drainage and flooding.
Now, the only grass on the lots is for walking paths, and the areas are filled with plants that have deep root systems for absorbing rainwater.
The neighborhood association owns the lots and maintains them, but the gardens were designed to require little maintenance.
What is needed is provided by neighbor Marilyn Setser. For her, the gardens are a living symbol of what neighbors can do when they work together.
Though the area is marked by some houses in disrepair or even boarded up, she said the rain gardens have encouraged people to take better care of their homes and yards, and that, in turn, will encourage others.
Plus, she said, they are as beautiful as they are functional.
I think this is the prettiest rain garden Ive ever seen, Setser said.