July 24 2013 12:00 AM

Property:  Various rain gardens on Michigan Avenue in Lansing.

Is that a bush growing out of the sidewalk? Is that fenced-in hole just a big cigarette butt and trash depository? Nope, it’s just a rain garden, designed to filter storm water through a system of dirt, sand and plant roots to help clean the water before it is discharged into the river. However, the Michigan Avenue rain gardens range from reasonably well manicured to jungles of overgrown vegetation and trash.

Ingham County Drain Commissioner Pat Lindemann said rain gardens collect trash to prevent it from going into the rivers, but that’s only half the work. 

“Maintenance is extremely important,” Lindemann said. “The wrong kinds of plants can intrude and grow there and interrupt the system. The trash needs to be extracted, and they need to be kept clean or the productivity of them will die as well.”

The city built the rain gardens in 2008. They are supposed to be “beautifully maintained” by Lansing area businesses and organizations that have adopted them, according to plaques at each site. 

Before the vegetation grew out of control in some of the rain gardens — particularly those near the bars Moriarty’s and Stober’s — a light layer of cigarette butts could be seen coating the bottom of the basins. Just wait until the weather cools and the weeds and vegetation die down and you’ll see for yourself.