December 20, 2022
Couple stems run-off into the river with a rain garden and infiltration trench



By Mary Reid Barrow

When rain began running off the road and down into Buffy and Jason Barefoot’s driveway and yard on its way into the Lynnhaven River, the Barefoots knew they had to do something.

The grade of Bridgehampton Road in the Bayside area had changed to such a degree that run-off was missing the city storm drain only yards away.  And the water had found a new runway to the river through the Barefoots’ sloped property.

The runoff carried not only gas, oil, and trash from the road, but it also was eroding their yard and carrying sediment and yard debris straight to the river.

Working with Vince Bowhers, LRNow’s Restoration Coordinator and WPL, landscape architects and LRNow Pearl Business, the Barefoots came up with a plan to change the water’s path.  Remedies included an infiltration trench to capture the runoff flowing from the road and a pipe to carry the water to a rain garden at the bottom of the hill.  LRNow provided some of the funding for the project through its Pearl Yard program.

In the end, the solution not only solved the problem of road runoff, but the rain garden also actually absorbed pollutants from the water and kept them out of the river.  Otherwise, the storm drain would have carried the water directly to the river.

In the process, the Barefoots’ yard was also enhanced by the pretty rain garden at the water’s edge.  In spring and summer, it is full of blooms, and leaves on the shrubs have bright autumn colors.

The 10-foot long, grated infiltration trench across the foot of their driveway collects water from the road, driveway and also from the house gutters.  The Barefoots plan to disguise the grate with river rock that will also filter some debris from the water.

Water from the trench feeds into a 6-inch round PVC pipe that runs 18 inches below ground to the garden at the bottom of the hill.  A pop-up valve in the garden center receives water from the pipe.

The rain garden is a shallow 12-foot round basin of rock and salt tolerant, water loving plants like grasses, butterfly milkweed and black-eyed Susans. Shrubs include azaleas and sweetspire. The hard working plants absorb most of the runoff and filter most of the pollutants.

A small little rock culvert leads from the garden to the river. If the rain garden overflows, the water has one more chance to be filtered by the rocky culvert.

When the Barefoots moved to the property five years ago, the acre lot was in turf grass right up to the bulkhead edges. Early on, they began working with WPL on a plan to turn much of their treed property back to mulch, ground cover and shrubbery.

Jason, a teacher at Princess Anne High School, and Buffy, president of TowneBank in Virginia Beach, did all the actual yard work themselves. That included planting 400 shrubs such as camellias, gardenias, azaleas and dwarf Burford hollies around the house and in beds under the trees.  The plan reduced grass in the yard by about 60 percent and about 80 percent of the grass along the water’s edge was eliminated!

Now with all their hard work and attention to detail, you might say the Barefoots have turned the tide on runoff to the river.

Reach Mary Reid at


More photos from the construction process

Infiltration trench and underground pipe running to rain garden


Construction of the rain garden


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