People on the Move – Asbury Takes on an Environmental Stewardship Effort

Local retirement community protects wildlife habitat on its extensive campus

Residents and associates of Asbury Methodist Village (AMV) have implemented a comprehensive wildlife management plan to preserve and enhance the natural beauty and biodiversity of this oasis in an otherwise urban community. The enjoyment of Asbury’s 130-acre campus is shared by the animal population – including a herd of deer, foxes, nesting bluebirds, and endangered American honey bees – as well as the human variety, such as Montgomery County area gardeners, aspiring Eagle Scouts, and special needs students.

“Our hope is that this wildlife management initiative will carry on for generations at Asbury Methodist Village”
.What started in late 2006 as a petition signed by 100-plus residents to create a discrete three-acre bird sanctuary has evolved into a multi-faceted, inter-generational and ambitious volunteer initiative being led by Asbury’s Wildlife Habitat Team, comprised of a core group of residents and associates. AMV’s entire 130-acre campus was certified in October 2009 as a Wildlife at Work site by the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC), an international nonprofit based in Silver Spring that helps large landowners, particularly corporations, manage their unused lands in an ecologically sensitive way. The area covered by the AMV plan includes a 17-acre nature preserve that includes woodlands and ponds to be left untouched.

“What amazes and delights me is how engaged so many of our residents and associates have been in caring for our outdoor space, each focusing on their own particular passion,” said David Denton, AMV’s executive director. “I’m seeing everyday living confirmation of the powerful benefits individuals of any age experience via close association with nature. It creates a holistic sense of well-being – physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, vocational and of course, environmental.”

The Wildlife Management Plan includes:

•Planted a 288-square-foot pollinator garden featuring native flower species that attract and benefit butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. Also discussed pollinator-friendly practices with the AMV Resident Garden Club, which oversees three dozen garden plots totaling 2.5 acres.
•Installed 11 bluebird nest boxes, which were constructed by an associate’s husband and son; put up with help from Germantown Quince Orchard High School special needs students; and now monitored by a team of residents to ensure the safety of eggs and newly hatched birds. Plans are underway to add houses for purple martins and screech owls.
•Inventoried, tagged and mapped each of the 3,000 trees on the property – a task completed earlier this year by an AMV resident’s teenaged grandsons from Bethesda as an Eagle Scout project.
•Created and sold more than 2,000 copies of a 2010 calendar featuring photographs taken by a resident of the wildlife and plants on the AMV grounds, which raised more than $1,000 for the Asbury Foundation Benevolent Care fund, which benefits AMV residents who have exhausted their financial resources through no fault of their own. Orders are now being taken for a 2011 edition.
•Solicited as “weed warriors” community volunteers from both Montgomery Village Garden Club as well as high school students seeking to complete their community service requirement. These able volunteers help keep invasive, non-native species like kudzu and garlic mustard at bay.
•Hosted several educational sessions led by specialists, such as Wildlife Habitat Council biologists, a Montgomery County Parks Forest Ecologist/Field Botanist, and a research specialist at the Smithsonian’s Migratory Bird Center on invasive species, urban ecology, and other relevant topics.
•Implemented more than a dozen efforts to reduce AMV’s energy consumption and reduce its carbon footprint from replacing windows with double-pane models to regularly replacing defective or missing pipe insulation, and much more.
Anita Taylor, AMV’s resident co-chair of the Wildlife Habitat Team Steering Group, explains that the purpose of this effort is to balance human habitation and wildlife, and to engage volunteers from diverse backgrounds to help preserve natural areas as a complement to AMV’s landscaping.

“Connections to nature help us all,” said Taylor. “Just think how good it feels to take a walk in the sunshine.”

What’s next for AMV’s Wildlife Management Plan? As a natural next step, Denton envisions obtaining the Wildlife Habitat Council’s status as a Corporate Land for Learning, a separate certification which would provide third-party recognition for AMV’s educational programs, fostering learning in children and adults alike.

“Our hope is that this wildlife management initiative will carry on for generations at Asbury Methodist Village,” said Lydia Page, resident co-chair of the Wildlife Habitat Team Steering Group. “As our ‘replacements’ move in – younger residents who will be here for years to come – I imagine they’ll be even more aware of the need to protect the environment than people my age. Now that we’ve set things in motion, I am optimistic AMV’s campus will remain a prized and protected ecosystem for animals and birds, bees and flowers, trees and wetlands.”

Asbury Methodist Village is a CARF-CCAC and EAGLE-accredited continuing care retirement community that is part of Asbury Communities, Inc., which provides management and support services for a system of continuing care retirement communities for older adults. Asbury Communities is ranked by the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (AAHSA) and Ziegler Capital Markets Group’s AZ 100 as the 14th largest not-for-profit multi-site senior living organization in the country.

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