By Krista Pfunder
A Severna Park church is being recognized nationally for its efforts to be better stewards of the Bay watershed, one of just five winners selected in the U.S.
Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church was selected by Interfaith Power & Light 2021 as a winner of its Cool Congregations Challenge. The annual contest recognizes religious congregations across the U.S. that address global warming by reducing carbon footprints and create models of sustainability within their communities.
Woods won a Cool Congregations Sacred Grounds Award for its collaborative effort to restore a 4-acre habitat on the church grounds.
An Anne Arundel County Master Watershed Steward came up with a plan to transform the property to a habitat that would support pollinators and wildlife, sequester carbon and mitigate stormwater. The plan included elements such as diminishing the size of the lawn to reduce the use of fertilizer and water, and planting native trees and plants. The project, which began in spring of 2018 and was completed in November 2020, has been warmly welcomed by the congregation.
“The parishioners have been very enthusiastic, especially when they saw so many butterflies that they hadn’t seen previously,” says Karen Royer, co-chair of the church’s garden committee. “The Cub Scout troop that meets at Woods asked for a garden tour and the Woods preschool asked for a flyer to give out to their families who were asking about the new flowers and shrubs that had so many pollinators.”
The church didn’t stop at watershed efforts in its goal to address global warming. It began a campaign to reduce energy use by upgrading to LED lighting, ultra-efficiency HVAC systems and building insulation improvements.
“Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church and the other winning congregations are casting a vision for the kind of world in which they want to live, and then carrying out that vision with practical actions that make a real difference in creating lasting solutions to climate change,” says the Rev. Susan Hendershot, president of Interfaith Power & Light.
The restoration work continues to expand at the church. “We hope to continue to showcase native plants and watershed friendly practices in our newsletter to keep the native plant benefits in front of people, and we will continue to plant many more native plants in all of our gardens and grounds going forward,” Royer says.
The church’s efforts to be responsible stewards of nature have proven to be an inspiration beyond their own parish. “People from the church and from the Severna Park Community Center who park on the church parking lot have taken pictures of the plant identification signs to use when they ask their landscapers for the same flowers or shrubs,” Royer says.
Neighbors interested in creating their own native garden often begin their search at the church. “The question of where to buy the native plants that they see in our gardens is the question that often comes up,” Royer says. “We hope that the local garden centers respond to the increased number of requests for native plants by stocking more.”
Homestead Gardens has established Native Habitat Centers to improve the Bay watershed in both its Davidsonville and Severna Park locations. The garden centers carry native plants sourced within a 50-mile radius and trains staff to ensure customers can get help selecting the appropriate native plants for their gardens.