by Dick Williams, LEED AP BD+C, Memorial Episcopal Church (post updated)
The idea grew out of fear.
The fear was that the Chesapeake Bay Trust would decline the Mt. Royal PTO’s 2017 Watershed Assistance Grant request for $75,000 for a major de-pave and greening of the Mount Royal Elementary/ Middle Schoolyard in Baltimore’s Bolton Hill neighborhood.
At stake was the momentum that began building in the summer of 2017 with stakeholder formation meetings—community members and organizations, institutions and other non-profits, parents, teachers and school principal—for major schoolyard changes.
The seeds of a new greening idea (no depave) arose from two visits within 3 weeks’ time to the beautiful Ladew Topiary Gardens and its regionally regarded Butterfly House in Monkton.
After the second visit, I put in a call for Ladew’s outreach coordinator—whoever that might be. Happily, Rachelle Fowler called back. I gave her an elevator speech about a Pollinator Micro-Habitat/Outdoor Classroom for Mount Royal; the Pollinator Garden for short.
Thus began a special relationship with Ladew for the Title 1 public school that would include in-classroom instruction and Garden planting design by Rachelle, and 2nd and 3rd grade visits to Ladew, all paid for by grant funds obtained by Ladew staff.
Next engagement that summer was with Kimberly Canale, Mt. Royal PTO President at the time, about calling on pro bono professional design help from talented Mahan Rykiel landscape architect JoAnn Trach Tongson. JoAnn created this design for the 2,160 sq. ft. vacant site then occupied by two commercial-scale dumpsters.
In late November, a MICA professor who led an architectural ceramics tour of historic Bolton Hill in the summer of 2016, agreed that he and two assistants would guide a dozen Mount Royal 2nd graders in designing and kiln-firing ceramic stepping stones for the garden.
In late April 2018 the Chesapeake Bay Trust awarded the project $5,000 under its Environmental Education Mini-Grant program. Turns out that was about 50% of what was needed. Four other funding sources were identified, including the Bolton Hill Garden Club.
Before the grant award notice was received, two actions were taken. First , the “Sheet Mulching Event,” was to supress the regrowth of the grass monoculture at the site.
The other was ordering the first 3” layer of mulch for deliver in April. “O ye, of little faith…” kept arising in my mind.