GAINESVILLE - Hard rains have taken their toll on the ground in front of Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy.
The soil has eroded, deeply in places, from years of rain passing from the school's roof through downspouts and then downhill to Enota Avenue.
School leaders and parents are planning a project, however, that not only is expected to correct that eyesore but also serve as a lesson in water conservation for students. Interest in the topic has increased as North Georgians find themselves dealing with water restrictions as the result of a deepening drought.
The plan is to turn a half-acre or more of mostly unused grounds at the school into the "Smartville Garden," lining up with other community-oriented aspects of the school, such as the "Smartville" bank and post office.
"We're very excited about the project," said Kelli Wright, PTA president and mother of two children at the school, a fourth-grader and a fifth-grader.
"The gardens are going to provide a hands-on opportunity for the children to learn more about water conservation and the plant classifications."
The project features ornamental and drought-resistant plants, a weather-proof path that snakes through the gardens and a series of water-collection devices. Water will be collected in underground and above-ground cisterns and a planned 10«-foot water tower bearing the name "Smartville Water Authority."
"We figure that, based on the square footage of the roof, we'll have 5,000 gallons of water with a 1-inch rain," said Mark Fockele, who is with The Fockele Garden Co. and a leader in the project.
"All the tanks are connected and we'll pump out of the lower of the four tanks to hand-water plants and then to run a little drip-irrigation system."
The gardens also will feature the "Plant Kingdom," depicting eight of the nine known types of plants. One type isn't able to grow here.
Students and others can expect to see conifers, lycopods, redbud trees, ferns and mosses throughout the gardens.
Enota already has an outdoor classroom in place - benches mostly - that will be located next to the flowering plants, according to design plans.
The front of the school will feature plants that will require very little water.
"We don't think we'll have to use city water, ever," Fockele said of that area. "We're not going to run a lawn mower on it; we're not going to have to use any gasoline."
A $20,000 grant from North Georgia Community Foundation is helping to pay for the effort. Those interested in contributing financially to the project can contact the foundation and those interested in getting their hands dirty can call Enota.
Sally Meadors, the school's principal, said the school has planned work days for 2 to 5 p.m. April 20 and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 26.
The project is expected to get under way this week, with the placement of the 1,500-gallon underground tanks scheduled for Saturday.
Work on the "Plant Kingdom" could start in the fall. "(That) is such a vast project, it will take longer, maybe more than a year to get (it) planted out," Fockele said.
Meadors said the gardens particularly will benefit fourth-graders, who study plant classification as part of the Georgia science curriculum.
Also, "we're talking about letting the children participate in putting in some of the plants - the smaller plants, flowers and things," she said.
Meadors is retiring after this school year, but she said she'll remain committed to the project. "Mark and I are in it for the long haul," she said.