A Heritage of Stewardship

“…is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet?”

Ezekiel 35:18

It was a beautiful day to be outside.

The sun was bright and a gentle breeze stirred the trees, a welcome break from unseasonable heat earlier in the week.

A massive array of plants, buckets of bushes, and small trees were set in carefully prepared beds in the grassy field beside the church and on the banks of the Spa Creek stem that meanders through the property.

Under a tree sat a large cooler filled with bottled water and a snack cart with breakfast treats.

Nearby, a stack of intricate planting guides provided a visible game plan for the day.

A truck bed filled with shovels, spades, and sacks of work gloves completed the scene.

In moments, the noise of traffic on Forest Drive was drowned out by the voices of volunteers gathering for a day of planting. After a word of instruction from Mel Wilkins, the Spa Creek Conservancy Project Manager, and prayer by Rev. Henry Green of Heritage Baptist Church, workers began planting approximately 1400 native perennials, trees, shrubs and seedlings in seven vast Rain Gardens and two Stormwater Planters.

This well-orchestrated event was the culmination of years of preparation and a partnership between Heritage Baptist Church and the Spa Creek Conservancy. According to the Spa Creek Conservancy`s Mel Wilkins, the project started with the Spa Creek headwaters assessment funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation three years ago, and conducted in conjunction with the Center for Watershed Protection. Their recommendations for Heritage Baptist Church became part of the Chesapeake Bay Trust Targeted Watershed Initiative awarded to the Spa Creek Conservancy.

Heritage Baptist Church, situated near the headwaters of Spa Creek at 1740 Forest Drive in Annapolis, is a big piece of property. Storm water runoff from parking lots, nearby roads and developments flows through the property via a stem of Spa Creek running across the church`s side lot. With a grant in hand, the Spa Creek Conservancy asked church leaders to join in a project to help clean this runoff by planting and maintaining rain gardens.

Rain gardens catch storm water runoff. The shrubs and trees in the rain gardens slow and cool the flow of water into the creek, filter its contaminants by infiltration into the soil and generally improve the Creek`s health at its headwaters.

When Wilkins approached Rev. Green and the Heritage Baptist Church board of trustees, headed at that time by Fred Wagner, the plan was eagerly embraced.

“Stewardship of the Earth is one of our most sacred missions,” said Rev. Green. “This project allows us to make a positive difference in our own back yard, literally, while teaching our youngest members the importance of environmental work.”

Once the church was on board, the Spa Creek Conservancy brought in Anne Guilette of Low Impact Design Studio in Pasadena to create a master planting plan. As the plans developed, Pat Pope came in as the new chairman of Heritage Baptist Church`s trustees and furthered the church`s work on this project.

Fellow trustee and church facilities manager Clair Morehead took this work to heart. Morehead, a retired biology teacher and ardent conservationist, had already installed a rain barrel at the church and used native plants around the grounds.

Pope, Morehead and Rev. Green kept in contact with the Spa Creek Conservancy`s Wilkins through all stages of work. Once the plans were completed, the Gold Leaf Group came in for the construction.

Leading to this day.

With the gardens now in place, Heritage Baptist Church will perform maintenance, primarily watering during the critical summer months. In the fall, twenty-five large canopy trees (“God`s air filters,” as Spa Creek Conservancy`s Wilkins calls them) will be planted.

The church will open these gardens to the public as a showcase site for storm water management, and educational signs will be posted on the grounds later this year.

On their knees, over fifty volunteers dug in and filled the gardens with greenery…

Boys from Cub Scout Troop 153, working on an environmental badge, measured themselves against a freshly planted evergreen as their leader told them someday it would far outgrow them…

Heritage Baptist Sunday School children dug small holes, and reveled in a wealth of earthworms…

Church folks laughed and swapped stories with Spa Creek Conservancy members…

Residents of the Heritage neighborhood came by to help…

It was a festive atmosphere of fellowship, fueled by the knowledge that this was good work for a higher cause… and not mere pretense.


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