Many people have heard of adopting a highway to keep it looking good. But what about adopting a garden or trees located on public land? It’s not a far-fetched idea, but something that’s already happening, and you may be able to take part.

Right here in Philly, 17 local organizations have been given hundreds of thousands of dollars in mini-grants since 2010 to adopt rain gardens, stormwater trees, plant-filled curb bumpouts and other green stormwater tools used in our Green City, Clean Waters program.

And, with 2019 nearly here, we are looking for more groups who could use funds to help us care for our growing network of infrastructure sites.

These groups make a meaningful difference in their neighborhoods by connecting with residents and teaching them about local waterways and why protecting them is important.

This arrangement is made possible by Soak It Up Adoption, a program we created to support groups who help us keep green stormwater tools in their neighborhoods looking good and working properly. The amount of money awarded depends on the amount of work committed to, and groups can use the funds for supplies, labor, and hosting activities that educate neighbors about green tools and what they do.

By helping us maintain Green City, Clean Waters green tools, these organizations aren’t just keeping local blocks looking tidy—they are playing a role in protecting the waterways we all share and depend on. Located in neighborhoods across the city, green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) systems add natural beauty to city streets, provide shade and clean air, and collectively help to soak up billions of gallons of runoff annually.

“We’ve been proud to be partners with the Philadelphia Water Department and the Soak It Up Adoption Program to help care for green infrastructure around our community,” said Ryan Kuck, of the nonprofit organization Greensgrow.

Kuck and others from the group worked to care for sites near Greensgrow’s farm and foodstand in West Philadelphia in 2018. “This type of engagement and support of community activism is exactly what our city needs more of, and it has been a great way to meet new neighbors and new allies in the fight for cleaner and healthier cities.”

Extra: Check out this August 2018 Plan Philly story about program participants at West Philly’s Malcolm X Park.

Considering stormwater runoff and related sewer overflows are two of the biggest local threats to rivers and creeks, the 17 groups adopting green tools are doing important work. For example, adoption partners collected over 45,500 pounds of trash—about the amount it would take an average person 25 years to generate—from more than 100 green tools last year. In the process of taking care of their community, those groups helped 1,600 neighbors learn more about green infrastructure and stormwater pollution.

Soak It Up! Adoption at Ralph Brooks

Above: Soak It Up Adoption participants at Ralph Brooks park in South Phila. Credit: Philadelphia Water Department

Can your group Soak It Up?

If you are a member of your local civic group or another organization interested in becoming a Soak It Up partner, follow the steps below.

  1. First, go to the Big Green Map and type in your address
  2. Look for areas covered by the green lines. Adoption partners take care of what is listed as “Green Stormwater Infrastructure – Public Projects on Streets,” seen here at the bottom of the map’s legend.
  3. If you see areas with the green line, click on them and look at the box that pops up. You are looking for projects listed as “Constructed”:
  4. If it looks like you have green tools in your area that could use Soak It Up Adoption, we want to hear from you.

Take the Next Step:

Check out the frequently asked questions, program requirements, and application forms on the Soak It Up site to learn more and apply!
Still not sure if you have GSI that can be adopted? Contact us and we’ll help:
Email Soak It Up!