The Gardens at Lake Merritt are well-known as a showcase for many species of flora.  Recently, a leaky, resource-wasting water feature– designed in a day when few questioned the constant draining, cleaning and refilling involved in maintaining decorative ponds– was transformed into a habitat for several species of  fauna– dragonflies, damselflies and tree frogs.

What started as a badge project concept for Eagle Scout, Jordan Soulman,  coalesced around Park Supervisor Tora Rocha’s long-held notion that the Gardens’ mid-20th Century water feature might be more efficiently maintained through the installation of a cutting-edge bio-filtration system.

The project came together quite quickly and took a virtual village to accomplish.

Among the contributing personnel and organizations:

  • Kathy Claypole-Biggs, (  a longtime educator and one of Northern California’s leading authorities on dragonflies and damselflies, provided habitat design consultation, and educational programming guidance.
  • Steve Kaper, ( provided engineering expertise in the creation of the waterscape which will comprise the habitat
  • HandsOn Bay Area which coordinated and managed the participation volunteers from AnswerLab and Google, and both companies helped purchase materials for the habitat and supplies for its biofilter.
  • Andrea Hurd, award-winning ecological design-build landscaper from Mariposa Gardening Design, offered front-line design execution and advice during the Google volunteer workday.
  • The Insect Sciences Museum of California will ultimately design and provide signage for the habitat, as well as offer support for ongoing educational programming.

For more photos, click here.

We will be sharing more information about the ways in which the Gardens are addressing both the short-term and long-term issues presented by the current drought emergency.  Stay tuned for more updates!