Downtown Improvement Gardens (DIG)

Downtown businesses are invited to participate in the Downtown Improvement Gardens (DIG) project, a project designed to improve water quality in Whatcom Creek and add green spaces to part of the downtown core.

What are Downtown Improvement Gardens?

The DIG project intends to improve Whatcom Creek water quality by installing 36 bio-retention facilities (formerly referred to as rain gardens) in strategic locations downtown. The bio-retention facilities help treat and infiltrate stormwater from over 80 urban acres that currently flows untreated into Whatcom Creek.

DIG also creates attractive urban green spaces downtown, can enhance pedestrian and bicycle safety, and help protect sewer ratepayers’ investments in the piped collection system.

Who maintains and cares for DIG?

The City is responsible for looking after these facilities as an important part of the City’s stormwater collection system. City Stormwater Maintenance crews will visit DIG sites periodically to make sure they are functioning, but to really keep the bio-retention facilities in good shape, it will take a DIG street steward to provide oversight and care.

Role of a DIG Steward

Becoming a DIG Street Steward is voluntary, and you can spend as much time as you want. As a DIG Street Steward, you will be partnering with the City to help with simple activities like picking up trash and debris, making sure curb openings and overflow drains are unobstructed and pulling weeds. This keeps stormwater and pollutants out of Whatcom Creek while maintaining attractive streetscapes for the community and improving the health of our watershed! Anytime you suspect your DIG isn’t functioning properly or needs special maintenance, you can call the City Stormwater crews.

Thank you to our current DIG Stewards for their participation in the program:

  • Alicia’s Bridal and The Formal House
  • Aslan Brewery
  • Back in Motion
  • Bellingham and Whatcom County Housing Authority
  • Binyon Vision Center
  • Ciao Thyme
  • Firestone Complete Autocare
  • Garden Street United Methodist Church
  • Great Harvest Bread Co.
  • Greenleaf Bookkeeping
  • HUB Northwest
  • Kulshan Services
  • Shake & Shine Canine Wash and Deli
  • Stan’s Auto Body
  • Studio Galactica
  • TERRA Organic and Natural Foods/Bellingham Public Market
  • TranTech Engineering, LLC
  • Unlimited Auto Service
  • Vital Climbing Gym
  • Whatcom Council of Governments
  • Whatcom Education Credit Union (WECU)

Do I need to attend a training workshop?

You are not required to attend a training workshop to become a DIG Street Steward, but are encouraged to do so. The city recommends that you attend a training workshop if you want more instruction on how to be the best DIG Street Steward.

How much time will it take?

As a DIG Street Steward, you can spend as much time as you want caring for your bio-retention facility (rain garden). We know you are busy and appreciate any time you can provide. The most important times to check a DIG is before or after a storm when heavy rains can cause trash and debris to collect around curb openings and drains, preventing stormwater from entering the rain garden. If you have only a few minutes to spare, you can help ensure the facility works by removing any trash, debris, and leaves from curb openings and overflow drains. Periodic checks for invasive weeds will also improve both performance and appearance.

Can I add plants, flowers, or vegetables to my DIG?

Adding colorful plants and flowers to your DIG may look attractive, but they can disrupt the DIG’s function in managing stormwater and restrict traffic visibility and pedestrian safety. The City and a qualified landscape architect will carefully selects plants (and soil) that work best for stormwater management while minimizing maintenance requirements. Any changes or plant additions to your DIG may disrupt this function and crowd out desired plants. If you think more plants are needed, check with the City Stormwater crews.

How is the DIG project funded?

The City Stormwater Utility will provide a 25% match to a grant from the Washington Department of Ecology and EPA funds.

More Information

Central Business District Bio-retention Facilities EV-105

Contact Freeman Anthony, P.E., Project Manager at 360-778-7924 or