This church has a great story that began many years before their major project was installed. The church had been fundraising to build a free dental clinic. Plans were drawn up when tragically the dentist died and the project came to a halt. The money fundraised for the clinic sat in an account and the church was discerning for years what to do with the money.
Fast forward several years and the City of Lancaster was facing fines for the amount of raw sewage being dumped into the waterways during rainstorms. This was of course due to excessive stormwater which was running into the combined sewer system rather than into the ground as nature intended. Also, neighbors were upset about about stormwater runoff flooding their basements and the traffic intersection after rainstorms. The church heard about the City’s offer of grants to private landowners for reducing stormwater and decided that the structure they had hoped would be a dental clinic could be demolished and the land turned into an urban green space with the capacity to reduce stormwater from the parking lot. They underwent extensive excavation to install underground water storage and two large rain gardens. They added permeable pavement in the parking lot. They also planted large trees to absorb stormwater and provide shade, and created a welcoming "pocket park" and several smaller gardens to beautify the area selecting native plant species to support local pollinators and birds. The church even went so far as to designate reserved parking spots for neighbors to use during the week!
Their project prevents over 500,000 gallons of stormwater from the parking from flowing into the shared sewer system. This is an 88% reduction of flow into the storm sewer system. The entire drainage area that was generating the stormwater for this project from the church and nearby residential properties was 40,600 square feet. The solution included installation of a 600-square foot bioretention practice and 4,000-square foot permeable pavement area. The total project cost $169,000, of which the City of Lancaster paid 90% while the church paid for 10% plus the demolition of a condemned building on the property. This amounted to ~ $70,000 that the church contributed to the project.
The amazing story here is that this this was almost the same amount as what had been saved for the dental clinic many years ago! The church leaders called each and every donor for the clinic project and proposed the new stormwater project as a use of the collected funds. Each donor was asked if they would approve of their donation being used in this way. The few who disagreed were returned their money.
The church also installed 10 native trees (6 species), 35 native shrubs (6 species), varied perennial pollinator flowers, numerous species of grasses, sedges, and rushes, and 2 species of flowering bulbs.
In addition, Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster offers ongoing education and engagement in many environmental efforts in the region. To learn more about this congregation, click here.
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