Capturing the Rain: Green Infrastructure Options for HOA Common Areas

Rain garden planting at Rady Park in Warrenton, VA. Photo by Marco Sanchez.

Many residents frequent common areas that are managed by homeowners associations, churches, or local governments. How these entities manage their public landscapes can have a profound effect on the health of our local ecosystems, wildlife, streams and drinking water sources. HOA’s in particular have a significant amount of common area that is often just mowed grass.

PEC hosted a short webinar on June 11, 2020 to introduce attendees to green infrastructure concepts that can transform community spaces at HOAs, as well as options for similar spaces at parks, churches and schools.

The webinar included panelists:

  • Julie Bolthouse, Fauquier County Representative, The Piedmont Environmental Council: “Why Green Infrastructure?”
  • David Wood, Stormwater Coordinator, Chesapeake Stormwater Network: “Residential/HOA Green Infrastructure 101 and Tips for HOA Facility Maintenance”
  • Dave Hirschman, Principal, Hirschman Water and Environment LLC: “Implementing VCAP Projects in Charlottesville/ Albemarle area and Tips for HOA’s”
  • Ari Daniels, P. E., Civil/Water Resources Engineer, Center for Watershed Protection: “Examples of Local Green Infrastructure Projects”

Watch the webinar

View the webinar in its entirety via PEC’s YouTube channel.

View each presentation’s slides here:


Looking for a few extra resources?

There is a lot of great information out there about green infrastructure. Start by taking a look at some of the following:

Rain Garden Guides and Information

Thinking about your yard’s maintenance?

Need help picking out some plants?

  • Native Plant Lists: Resources that PEC has pulled together to help you determine what native plants might work for your yard.
  • Plant NOVA Natives: Great Guide to Native Plants for Northern Virginia
  • Plant Virginia Natives: This website is provided by the Virginia Native Plant Marketing Partnership as a hub for information about Virginia’s native plants.

Concerned about water quality?

Check out the following groups who are active in your area:

  • Chesapeake Monitoring Cooperative: is a group of leading organizations that provide technical, programmatic, and outreach support in order to integrate volunteer-based water quality and macroinvertebrate monitoring data into the Chesapeake Bay Program partnership.
  • Chesapeake Data Explorer: CMC’s interactive map that shows chemical and biological water quality data collected from the entire Chesapeake watershed.
  • Izaack Walton League for America: Leading national organization training, equipping, and coordinating volunteer water quality monitors for macro-invertebrate monitoring.
  • EnviroDIY with Stroud Water Research Center: A community for do-it-yourself environmental science and monitoring. EnviroDIY is part of WikiWatershed, a web toolkit designed to help citizens, conservation practitioners, municipal decision-makers, researchers, educators, and students advance knowledge and stewardship of fresh water.

Care about the birds, bees and butterflies (maybe bears, too)?

Here are great groups to check out if you are into wildlife habitat and conservation:

Demonstration Sites:

Here are some examples of stormwater infrastructure that you can visit for inspiration:

PEC’s Rainwater Swales in Warrenton

pec larson native plant garden rainwater swalesRainwater swales at PEC’s office in Warrenton. Photo by Claire Catlett.


Located at our office at 45 Horner St. in Warrenton, the rainwater swales in the Larson Native Plant Garden are only a small part of a much larger landscaping project. Our original landscaping was a traditional mowed lawn with a couple of trees. Our new building addition and site work were designed to direct runoff from the rooftop and driveway to a series of swales with engineered soils that are designed to allow the water to be absorbed by the surrounding ground and plants.

The design helps slow down the flow of stormwater and prevent erosion of soil off the site. The plants were specifically selected because they are adapted to wet conditions and help reduce turbidity and increase infiltration rates. The garden was mostly funded by donors but the rainwater swales were partially funded by VCAP funding.

Watch a short video of PEC’s Julie Bolthouse talking about this project:

The Larson Native Plant Garden isn’t open to the public, but our staff are happy to schedule a visit with you or a group. Please contact Julie Bolthouse at

Rain Garden at Schoolhouse #18 in Marshall

The Fauquier Master Gardeners created this rain garden located at 7592 E Main St, Marshall, VA 20115 to demonstrate how to build a rain garden and what plants will grow well in that environment. The rain garden is part of the teaching and demonstration gardens maintained by Extension Master Gardeners for over 25 years on the property. #18 Schoolhouse and the demonstration gardens are open to the public dawn to dusk daily as part of Fauquier County Parks and Recreation properties.

The rain garden is about 300 ft sq. it was designed to capture half of the water that comes from the roof of #18 schoolhouse as well as water coming from the back of the transfer station. There had been a swale in the area that did not function well and some soil erosion and ponding in other places. The rain garden soils were amended with sand and compost to 12 inches and river rocks were placed atop the overflow berm.

The cost of the rain garden was $1,447 which included $600 for the small backhoe work. Volunteers contributed 77 hours. The funding for this program came from the Master Gardener Association of Fauquier and Rappahannock Counties as well as VCAP and John Marshall Soil and Water Conservation District.

Plant List

  • 1 Sweet Bay Magnolia, Magnolia virginiana
  • 2 Viburnum Possum Haw, Viburnum nudum ‘Brandywine’
  • 5 Winterberry, Ilex verticillata ‘Nana’ Red Sprite
  • 3 Sweetspire, Itea ‘Henry’s Garnet
  • 4 Blue Star, Amsonia tabernaemontana
  • 5 Switchgrass, Panicum virgatum ‘Rotstrahlbusch’
  • 3 Joe Pye Weed, Eutrochium purpureum
  • 10 Northern Blue Flag Iris, Iris versicolor
  • 6 Maidenhair Ferns, Adiantum Aleuticum
  • 4 Lady Ferns, Athyrium filix-femina
  • 4 Turtlehead, Chelone obliqua
  • 12 Sweet Flag, Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’

Annuals to be planted by seed

  • 3 Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias incarnate
  • 5 Swamp Sunflowers, Helianthus angustifolius
  • 5 Great Blue Lobelia, Lobelia Siphilitica

Rain Garden at Rady Park

PEC helped design and install a native plant rain garden with Warrenton Parks & Recreation at Rady Park. The rain garden serves as a demonstration garden and helps mitigate some of the runoff issues in this area of the park.

Thanks to the John Marshall Soil & Water Conservation District the garden was partially funded by VCAP funds. The remainder of the costs were covered by a grant from the Volgenau Foundation.


Interested in exploring conservation options for your property? Reach out to us directly! PEC works with a variety of partners on water quality issues.

  • Julie Bolthouse, Fauquier Field Representative, Piedmont Environmental Council,, (540) 347-2334 x7042
  • Claire Catlett, Fauquier and Rappahannock Field Representative, Piedmont Environmental Council,, (540) 347-2334 x7060
  • Michael Trop, Conservation Education Specialist, John Marshall Soil and Water Conservation District (Fauquier County),, (540) 316-6639
  • Tim Ohlwiler, Extension Agent, Agriculture and Natural Resources – Horticulture, Virginia Cooperative Extension (Fauquier County),, (540) 341-7950 ext. 3
  • David Wood, Stormwater Coordinator, Chesapeake Stormwater Network,, (410) 750-7635
  • Dave Hirschman, Principal, Hirschman Water and Environment LLC,, (434) 409-0993
  • Ari Daniels, Water Resource Engineer, Center for Watershed Protection,, (410) 461-8323 x3204

Event Partners:

  • Center for Watershed Protection
  • Chesapeake Stormwater Network Fauquier County
  • John Marshall Soil and Water Conservation District
  • The Piedmont Environmental Council
  • Virginia Cooperative Extension (Fauquier County office)

This webinar was made possible by a grant from the Kortlandt Fund of the Northern Piedmont Community Foundation.