Lake Oswego United Church of Christ green team leaders were happy about turning their church parking lot into a rain garden. From the left are Monica Honegger, Cindy Ellison and Sally Weersing.

As churches go, they don't come any greener than Lake Oswego United Church of Christ.

The church proved that by completing its rain garden on Tuesday, a project that required a lot of work and a lot of money.

But now, instead of waste and erosion in the Tryon Creek watershed, the rain garden will produce more than 430,000 gallons of clean rainwater every year. Plus the garden looks really good.

'It actually looks better than what we originally envisioned,' said Cindy Ellison of the LOUCC green team.

'We're really excited about it,' said Monica Honegger, a retired teacher who is now a farmer. 'We've put in this rain garden and two bioswales, and we're finally starting to get it right. This has really been a team effort.'

Church members and the general public can enjoy the view right out in front of the church on Country Club Road. Green teamers and their allies planted more than 275 native plants, but first they had to dig up lots and lots of soil and asphalt.

'There was such a huge hole we had to fill!' Ellison said. 'We had to excavate an awful lot of soil.'

Not to mention 400 feet of pavement from the church parking lot.

But when the garden was finished, the church was a leader among urban sustainability projects in Oregon, according to Jason Faucera and Erik Carr of the Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District. They were highly praised for their contribution to the project by Ellison.

'There are an increasing number of groups contacting me about projects like this, and a lot of them are churches,' noted Carr, who is the district's new urban conservation specialist.

'Other churches are doing things like this, but they aren't as far along as LOUCC,' said Faucera, who is rural conservation specialist for the Clackamas District.

To the members of LOUCC, making a rain garden right in front of their church was a form of worship.

'For the last couple years we've made the environment part of our mission,' Ellison said. 'It's become a main part of our worship and activities.'

'For the ladies on the green team, Cindy, Monica, Sally (Weersing), this project was something near and dear to their hearts,' Faucera said. 'They've gone the extra mile to make their church as green as possible.'

As for the future, Ellison promises, 'This is not the end.'

The church has budgeted to put in up to 500 plants, and Carr and Faucera will be back in the spring to lead workshops.

'This church is helping us sell sustainability to other places,' Faucera said. 'If enough of them install rain gardens, it will have a significant impact on the whole district.'

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