After three years of piloting the RiverSmart Maintenance Assistance Program (RSMAP) together, Urban Ecosystem Restorations (UER) and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay (Alliance) have successfully established RSMAP as part of the District Department of Energy & Environment’s RiverSmart Homes Program. Through RSMAP, UER and the Alliance have worked in partnership to create a platform that addresses the specific maintenance needs of District homeowners who have had conservation landscapes, also known as BayScapes, or rain gardens installed through the RiverSmart Homes Landscaping program.
With the mission of successfully establishing RSMAP as a permanent component of the RiverSmart Homes Program accomplished, UER will conclude its lead role in the development of RSMAP and the facilitation of RiverSmart homeowner maintenance assistance. Moving forward, RSMAP will continue to serve the growing population of RiverSmart homeowners to promote the long-term viability of their rain gardens and BayScapes.
UER and the Alliance initially launched the pilot RSMAP in 2018 to gather data on the maintenance needs of RiverSmart homeowners and to understand cost-effective methods to deliver impactful maintenance assistance. As the program grew, it became apparent that maintenance considerations needed to be integrated into each stage of RiverSmart Homes: from RiverSmart contractor training to garden design and installation to homeowner stewardship for the life of the gardens. It also became apparent that RiverSmart homeowners needed different kinds of assistance, depending on their particular maintenance needs or challenges. RSMAP will continue to offer virtual homeowner assistance and maintenance resources while adding limited garden inspection services and a cost-share maintenance service option.
Among the many successes accomplished over the last three years, the most significant stand-outs include:
● Extensive data gathering that led to the expansion of outreach channels that engage increasing numbers of RiverSmart homeowners in best management practices for the maintenance of their gardens;
● The development of maintenance materials as a key component of the RiverSmart Homes process – from contractor training through long-term homeowner support – that strengthens the program’s capacity to protect and expand the value of the District’s public investment in RiverSmart garden installations;
● High levels of RiverSmart homeowner satisfaction demonstrated the value of customized maintenance support delivered via email and phone;
● High levels of positive feedback on the draft RiverSmart Rain Garden Maintenance Manual, an effort led by UER, reflects the need for clear documents designed to assist homeowners with the long-term stewardship needs of rain gardens.
While UER’s formal role in the RSMAP partnership is ending, UER will continue to provide advisory support and serve as an ally in promoting and supporting the RiverSmart Homes program.
UER looks forward to taking the successes of RSMAP to other urban nature and conservation landscaping programs in UER’s service area.