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Planting a Park Within a “Park”
There are no parks in McElderry Park in Baltimore, but the National Wildlife Federation and their partners are hoping to change that. For the past three years, NWF has been working with the residents of Baltimore to transform neighborhoods into green sanctuaries.
Much of the work has taken place in the Amazing Port Street Sacred Commons, a grassy field located behind Amazing Grace Lutheran Church in the McElderry neighborhood. The space was previously occupied by abandoned, dilapidated houses and is just one block from Monument Street, where stores were looted and a carryout store was set ablaze during the Baltimore unrest in April.
NWF has been working with Baltimore community partners – Blue Water Baltimore, Banner Neighborhoods, Amazing Grace Lutheran Church, and Baltimore Tree Trust – to plant more trees and install several community gardens in the McElderry Park neighborhood. Within weeks of the Baltimore riots, 20 residents came together to plant 180 native plants to create a pollinator-friendly garden near the Port Street Sacred Commons prayer labyrinth and adjacent to the community food garden behind Amazing Grace Lutheran Church. The ground was hard and the rain was relentless at times, but McElderry Park residents are a resilient group.
A Garden to Remember
NWF staff and community partners arrived early in the day to start prepping the site. We expected to attract native pollinators such as bees and butterflies, but almost immediately we had attracted kids who wanted to check out what we were doing. Some would pass by on bikes and others would stroll past us. After the third or fourth pass, we would invite the kids to join us in planting the garden. Their eyes lit up as they put on a pair of garden gloves and picked up a hand trough. They worked tirelessly to install a large pollinator-friendly garden and often paused to marvel at the sight of a caterpillar or slug. The smiles said it all.
“It was a powerful experience to see the kids from this community take such pride in their hard work. They were ready to roll up their sleeves, get their hands dirty, and lead myself and others through the process of planting their own community pollinator garden.” – Carolyn Millard
I’ve planted many gardens in many communities, but I will never forget this garden or the kids who found joy in the simple act of gardening among neighbors and friends.
Once the garden is completely finished, the community in McElderry Park plans to certify the area as a Certified Wildlife Habitat.