Wildlife Get a (Temporary) Home in DC for Park(ing) Day

from Wildlife Promise

A couple of months ago I had this idea to convert a parking space in front of National Wildlife Federation’s office into a temporary Certified Wildlife Habitat ® in downtown Washington DC.  I had seen the parklets that Casey Trees, a local non-profit, had installed in the past, and thought Park(ing) Day 2013 would be a unique opportunity to show DC residents that it’s easier than they may think to create wildlife habitat in a city – you can even tranform a parking space!

We tossed together a quick little Certified Wildlife Habitat in a parking spot in front of our National Advocacy Center in downtown Washington D.C. for Park(ing) Day.

We tossed together a quick little Certified Wildlife Habitat in a parking spot in front of our National Advocacy Center in downtown Washington D.C. for Park(ing) Day.

PARK(ing) Day is an annual open-source global event where citizens, artists and activists collaborate to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into “PARK(ing)” spaces: temporary public places. Our Park(ing) Day team was composed primarily of NWF staff, but we also had assistance from volunteers working in the urban planning and architecture fields, as well as some local urban gardeners and artists.

Our 'parklet' before we added the native plants, water, and other features of a Certified Wildlife Habitat.

Our ‘parklet’ before we added the native plants, water, and other features of a Certified Wildlife Habitat®.

After weeks of planning, today NWF rolled out the welcome mat for birds, butterflies and other backyard wildlife as part of Park(ing) Day 2013 by creating a temporary Certified Wildlife Habitat in front of our office in Chinatown. What better way to show urbanites that it’s easy to create habitat for wildlife than by transforming a parking space into an NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat®?

National Wildlife Federation’s Certified Wildlife Habitat program has been helping people take personal action on behalf of wildlife for more than 40 years. This temporary certified habitat we have installed today will join the more than 150,000 certified habitats nationwide, all of which help improve habitat for birds, butterflies, frogs and other wildlife by providing essential of food, clean water, cover and places to raise young. Ranger Rick even stopped by to pay us a visit!

DC has had pop-up retails spaces, art installations, and now a set of pop-up parks across the city…at least for one day. Check out Casey Tree’s map of DC’s Park(ing) Day activities in DC:

As the sign says, supplementary feeders provide additional food other than what they find from native plants.

As the sign says, supplementary feeders provide additional food other than what they find from native plants.

We designed our site to include the four habitat elements that are required for a site to be certified by NWF – food, cover, water and places to raise young.  Like me, you may at first be intimidated by these habitat elements, especially if you live in a city and have a smaller space to work with. However, creating a wildlife habitat in an urban area is easier than you think.  For example, we made a conscious decision to re-purpose and re-use items that we already had hanging around. That wobbly bookcase in the back hall of our office: planter! The terra cotta dish someone had hanging around: water feature!

On behalf of NWF and our Park(ing) Day team, I would like to extend a special thanks to Nature By Design for allowing us to borrow 44 beautiful native plants to showcase at our site. That’s right, 44 native plants made their way to DC in a hatchback in what one of my NWF colleagues called a “plant clown car.”

Nature By Design is an environmentally responsible full service nursery and garden center located in Alexandria, VA, that specializes in native plants. If you’re looking for native plants in the DC area, you should definitely pay them a visit and tell them I say, “hello.”

I can’t stress the importance of using native plants in your habitat  because  they adapted to survive in DC given our soil, moisture, and climate. Also, since they are indigenous to a specific region, native plants usually require less maintenance and are welcomed by wildlife, serving an important role in the local ecosystem.

Another thank you in order for C & D Tree Service Incorporated for donating and dropping off mulch for us to use – thanks so much for your help!   I’d also like to thank DC Dept of Transportation (DDOT) for officially sponsoring Park(ing) Day 2013 and for streamlining the permitting process.

With food, water, cover and a place to raise young are the four elements required to receive the coveted Certified Wildlife Habitat® sign.

With food, water, cover and a place to raise young are the four elements required to receive the coveted Certified Wildlife Habitat® sign.

Certify Your Wildlife GardenHow have you transformed your urban space into Certified Wildlife Habitat®? Share your stories below in the comments! You may also want to check out this post about urban habitat creation from a D.C. resident.