Broadlands Association in Ashburn, Va., has more than 20 years of experience maintaining the community, building events, and creating partnerships with the environment in mind and encouraging its residents to focus on nature. The association was developed with that mission, but existing communities can implement some of the same tactics and ideas.
COMMUNICATE AND EDUCATE. Be sure your community understands what you're doing and why you're doing it. For example, Broadlands General Manager Sarah E. Gerstein, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, says she and board members have fielded questions about the use of pesticides in common areas. She explains that the community has to consider both the cost and effectiveness of the products used on the community's landscaping.
CONSULT WITH PROFESSIONALS. If your community is thinking of using more native plants or moving toward a more eco-friendly design, ask subject-matter experts about the costs, potential benefits and drawbacks. Broadlands, for example, tries to avoid invasive plants and instead invests in native plants like butterfly weed, milkweed or witch hazel, a shrub. Search for native plants at www.wildflower.org.
DO YOUR RESEARCH. Find out more about sustainable landscaping at www.sustainablesites.org. It's a resource used by landscape architects, designers, engineers, architects, developers, policymakers and others to align land development and management with innovative sustainable design.
CONSIDER AESTHETICS AND TIME. It often takes several years for plants to mature. "We're moving toward using more native plants, but some of those natives look more like weeds when you first put them in," says Gerstein.
FIND A CHAMPION IN THE COMMUNITY AND LOOK FOR PARTNERSHIPS. The National Wildlife Federation's community certification program offers plenty of resources to get you started, but you'll want a volunteer who will be able to lead the way. www.nwf.org/Garden-For-Wildlife/Create/Communities.aspx
START SMALL AND DOCUMENT SUCCESS. If you have a really successful project, note the steps you took to get there and why it worked. Doing so can increase the chances of buy-in for bigger projects.
CREATE SANCTUARIES AND DEMONSTRATION GARDENS. By using a variety of plants and flowers in common areas, you provide residents with a place where they can relax and consider taking some of the same steps. "Communities should be bold and colorful and unique in their own way and landscaping is one way of doing that," says Oya Simpson, chair of Broadlands' Wildlife Habitat Committee. "Having everything be so groomed may be the way it's been for many communities, but be brave and give something new a try."
BUDGET GREEN. Broadlands spends about $58,000 annually to house its animals and provide nature center programming. The annual landscaping budget totals $963,000; it includes tree and pond care, watering and mowing, and various projects to make the community more eco-friendly. The community also works with an arborist who inspects Broadlands trails several times a year to ensure any damaged trees are removed before they become a hazard to residents. The Wildlife Habitat Committee budget is $3,200 this year.
This article is excerpted from "What Comes Naturally," an article by Pamela Babcock that appeared in the July/August 2016 issue of Common GroundTM magazine.
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