Guest Blog Post by David Davis
It was 9:30 on a hot summer night, and I was worn out and covered in dirt. It was also one of the best evenings I’d had in months. I was surrounded by native flowers in what had been a nondescript part of a building along a busy street, having just put the finishing touches on a habitat restoration project. But while it was a quiet and nearly solitary end to this phase of the project, it had been a community of people who made it happen, and who will extend the benefits both geographically and into the future.
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (Muddy Branch watershed), supported by a grant from the National Wildlife Federation, undertook a project to improve the wildlife value of its grounds using a modified version of NWF’s Backyard Habitats program. Beginning at an April workday, shortly after Easter, more than a dozen members of the congregation pitched-in to do the initial planting and installation work.
Volunteers planted native flowers, including Joe Pye weed, echinacea, black-eyed Susans, bee balm, and thread-leaf coreopsis. The plant species were selected to attract birds, butterflies, and other pollinators. Given Good Shepherd’s long frontage along MD Rt 355, we avoided plants that are particularly attractive to small mammals. This will minimize animals scurrying across a busy road.
A grassy hill adjacent to the church’s playground, which also serves a preschool hosted there, got a butterfly puddle, a seed feeder, and a combination nesting and roosting box. The project also includes a 60-gallon rain barrel and planters filled with native flowers on the church’s patio.
Integral to the effort, and to NWF’s forthcoming Sacred Grounds habitat certification program, is education and outreach within the church community. Good Shepherd has plugged into an existing program for young families within the congregation, and held an event that connected religious principles with environmental education. In May, using newly installed habitat elements, families learned about what wildlife needs, and how that’s different from what people need. Kids also had a chance to plant native seeds to take home.
The plan is for the Good Shepherd building and grounds to serve as a living classroom for members of the community and other congregations. Individuals, families, and congregations can then take away ideas and lessons and improve habitats and reduce stormwater impacts at home.
David Davis is a dad, an environmentalist, a consultant, and a member of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. He and his family live in Rockville, MD.
Interested in writing as a guest for the Alice Ferguson Foundation’s blog? Email [email protected]