BENTON HARBOR — Wightman received a Michigan Award for their rain garden beautification project from Keep Michigan Beautiful, Inc. last week in Lansing.

The architecture, engineering, environmental and surveying firm selected a section of their asphalt parking lot at their Benton Harbor office, removed parking spaces, and replaced them with a rain garden. The rain garden collects and filters pollutants from stormwater run-off before the water enters the Ox Creek watershed.

“By reducing the quantity of stormwater run-off from the site, the garden offers a substantial positive environmental impact,” Wightman Landscape Architect Ben Baker said in a news release. “The 3,750-square-foot garden features plants and trees native to Michigan, providing a welcome respite amid an asphalt jungle shared between one office and two manufacturing facilities.”

The Wightman rain garden was designed in 2016 as part of a larger environmental effort to improve the water quality of Ox Creek.

According to the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, Ox Creek is the last tributary to enter the Paw Paw River and is one of the most polluted. Polluted stormwater run-off, often carrying dangerous chemicals, travels into the creek, leaving erosion in its wake.

Planted in the fall of 2017, 18 parking lot spaces were removed, and dirt was excavated from the site.

New soil and rocks were added to the garden, and a community planting day was held where more than 750 plants were installed.

The garden will soon mark its two-year anniversary.