On Sunday, September 17, a new garden was born at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Covenant. Members of the congregation both young and old who assisted with planting joined the new Pastor to bless a newly installed rain garden.. The garden was even put to the test when members dumped a large bucket of water into the parking lot and watched as the water made its way into the garden!
The new rain garden was a result of a great community effort and years of planning. Blue Water Baltimore’s relationship with Episcopal Church of the Holy Covenant began back in 2015 through the Blue Water Congregations program. On a very brisk, cold January day we met Ms. Bernadine Coates, a member of the congregation, to take a walk around the church property to talk about potential greening projects. At the time, Ms. Coates was taking classes on landscape design and native plants and was interested in learning about opportunities for adding some landscaping to the property. She had also just learned about the issue with stormwater in Baltimore, and was curious about things the church could do to help.
After walking the property, Blue Water Baltimore helped the congregation look at potential projects, including capturing most of the stormwater runoff that runs off the parking lot. The congregation was excited about the prospect of a rain garden. The new garden would not only help the congregation beautifying the space but it would also treat runoff from .15 acres or 6,500 square feet of their parking lot. Reflecting back on the project’s beginning, Ms. Coates explained, “The more I researched the subject the more interested I became in helping to protect the environment. When I learned of the function of the rain garden I felt it had to be done.”
Ms. Coates, with the blessing of the church, successfully applied for and received Watershed Assistance Grant funding through the Chesapeake Bay Trust in Fall 2015 for the design of the project. Throughout 2016, the church and Blue Water Baltimore worked with CityScape Engineering and Rain Underground, who designed two rain gardens, totaling 426 square feet, for the church property.
In order to fund installation, Ms. Coates again applied for a Chesapeake Bay Trust grant in Fall 2016. Chesapeake Bay Trust awarded the grant, with funds contributed by Baltimore City, to cover the $54,000 construction cost. Blue Water Baltimore’s Environmental Construction Team installed the project in June 2017. Although the site was tough with rocky soils, the team persevered and prepped the site for planting. Because there is a better chance for plants to live and thrive when planted after the heat of the summer has passed, the planting was completed the week of September 11, 2017.
The work has just begun. The church will continue to water the garden as the plants become established and will be installing a sign showing how the garden functions. Projects like the rain gardens at Holy Covenant can serve as models for faith organizations around Baltimore. We’ve been working with Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake, Interfaith Power and Light, and University of Maryland Sea Grant Extension on the One Water Partnership program to engage congregations within the Jones Falls Watershed. Our hope is to establish more green ministries at their congregations and challenge faith groups to take four actions of environmental stewardship.