When you visit the Project Eden gardens north of the north parking lot at Grace Church 146th Street, you undoubtedly notice the “Big Field” beyond the garden plots and orchard area. This field—a remnant portion of Grace’s original 30-plus acre site—was annually rented out for commercial farming while being reserved for potential expansion needs. Now that Grace is clearly focused toward new campuses, the Big Field is ready to become an important local element of responding to what Grace refers to as the “sixth broken place” of God’s decaying creation. Eight-acres of the roughly 10-acre site were recently seeded with native prairie wildflowers and forbs (grasses). In just a few years the Big Field will be transformed into a stunningly beautiful and precious habitat for countless bees, butterflies, birds and other animals. And it will be a great place to reconnect our own lives to the awesomeness of natural creation!
An 8-acre wildflower prairie will also be a significant asset of the greater suburban community. The Big Field is likely to be fully surrounded by development within the next ten years. Because of the need to preserve habitat in this context, Project Eden has been able to get grant assistance to make it happen financially. The 8-acres have been enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The CRP is a cost-share and rental payment program administered by the US Department of Agriculture where a landowner is compensated annually for qualified farmland replanted for conservation. In our case we used a “CP42” seed mix for enhanced pollinator habitat. Our government environmental agencies have recognized the importance of assisting declining bee and butterfly populations—especially the Monarch butterfly which by some accounts is nearing endangered status. The CP42 mix includes milkweed species vital to their survival. Indiana’s DNR is also in the process of funding our restoration activities and the Hamilton County Soil & Water District office has already granted funds toward the native planting efforts of our pond-edge restoration project. The net effect of collaborating with these agencies may provide as much as a $40k offset toward our restoration and maintenance efforts over the next ten years—A true “win-win-win” for Grace/Project Eden, the area community, and for wildlife!
Last but not least—we will need volunteers interested in the stewardship of our native planting projects! Our activities may include things like plant and insect identification, seed collecting, nature trail maintenance, invasive weed control and even prescribed burning (see below). Look for future announcements on how to get in on the fun!
Some Prairie Tidbits:
- Did you know that only 0.15% of pre-settlement native prairie remains in the US today? That’s only 15 acres for every 10,000 acres the land once had.
- Most native prairie wildflowers and forbs (grasses) have a rhizome type root structure (see image) and also may grow as much as 15’ in depth.
- A mature prairie can sequester more carbon—an important greenhouse gas—than a mature forest—And most of that storage is below ground!
- Fire was once a natural occurrence for prairies and functioned to rejuvenate growth and ensure long-term survival. Today we can do prescribed burning—even in a suburban setting—by working with local fire officials. Periodic burning is one of the best methods for controlling undesirable invasive plants.
If you are interested in helping us to care for the prairie at Grace 146th Street, please contact us!