By Mark Ambrogi
St. Peter’s United Church of Christ congregation’s hard work has not gone unnoticed.
The Carmel church received the Sacred Grounds Steward award through Cool Congregations program of the nation Interfaith and Light organization.
St. Peter’s, 3106 E. Carmel Dr., was selected from more than 60 entries for producing a Native Habitat project that recreated a prairie. Ginger Bievenour, a member of the congregation and chair of the committee, submitted the project for the award consideration.
The congregation created rain gardens, bioswales and prairie on approximately 2.5 acre property surrounding the church. Bievenour said the purpose was twofold, to mitigate runoff and erosion issues and to provide multiple opportunities for use by the congregation and the community.
The church received a grant of $30,000 from the Upper White River Watershed Alliance for the project.
In addition to donations by the congregation, the church received grants of $1,000 from Indiana Native Plant and Wildlife Society and $1,000 from Hamilton County Southeast Soil and Water Conservation District.
The congregation approved the plans to adopt the project in fall of 2013 and the project was started the following spring.
“There were at least 50 volunteers who planted 6,000-plus plugs of plants for the rain gardens and bioswales,” said Bievenour, whose daughter-in-law Lori is St. Peter’s senior pastor. “Then in the fall, we had more than 60 native trees and shrubs planted on the corridor between Keystone and the church. Volunteers came out to mulch and to stake and to plant some additional trees and shrubs from people’s yards.”
Bievenour said the prairie was seeded in late winter.
“Now the work begins to keep that free of invasive clover and thistle and to encourage the growth of plants that would be native to a prairie here in Indiana,” Bievenour said. “There should be lots of beautiful, blooming plants. That was the case last year with the rain gardens. The butterflies came in and we’ve got a hawk that decided it was an interesting place to be. We have birds and ducks. So it really is functioning as we hoped.
“It’s an ongoing project and the next few years we will continue to improve it and enhance its ability to handle runoff. We have a slanted property that allows a water to come off it and it flows into the storm sewers. It does not do so as it once did. It’s already being quite effective.”
Bievenour said in the fall they will likely invite the community to see the grounds and inform them of future plans.