Sustainability Corner: Riderwood continues to go greener

By Anne Blackburn
Member, Sustainability Committee

Sustainability committee members are leading initiatives in healthier eating, improved recycling, waste reduction, and energy conservation. The committee is also studying energy alternatives

When the Erickson corporation purchased the 120-acre property from the state of Maryland in 1999, the agreement of sale required Riderwood to maintain 40 acres to support wildlife.  The sustainability committee is helping Riderwood fulfill its obligation to preserve wildlife habitat.

To meet this requirement, Riderwood protected the woodlands surrounding the property, preserved the woodland outside Victoria Place and the “arboretum” behind Montgomery Station. Riderwood “reforested” other areas after construction ended, and replanted healthy young trees that had been moved and cared for during construction.

Riderwood sought help from the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) to determine how it could provide better nesting opportunities and cover, improve food sources, reduce invasive vegetation, and educate residents and staff about the importance of these activities. WHC is a non-profit organization established by the National Wildlife Federation to encourage corporations, colleges, and other relatively large private land holders to manage their properties in wildlife-friendly ways.

After the WHC prepared a detailed opportunity report, more than 20 outdoor habitat improvement activities were initiated.  Jack Vargo, Grounds Supervisor, began the adopt-a-pot and Aquanauts projects. Riderwood’s Grounds department hired contractors to remove trees that posed a danger to buildings, internal roadways and parking areas, and instructed them to leave 20-foot high trunks called “snags” to provide nesting opportunities for birds and small mammals.

Residents continued existing bird walks and initiated other projects — tending butterfly gardens, deadheading rose bushes, monitoring birdhouses, and reducing invasive vegetation. Grounds department staff members provided needed support to these efforts.

To inform residents about these initiatives, the Wildlife Habitat Management Project participated in Earth Day; published nature alerts in The Riderwood Reporter; invited knowledgeable residents and outside experts to give presentations or be interviewed on Riderwood TV, showed relevant films, and at holiday time, decorated a tree in the foyer of the chapel with natural materials gathered from the campus.

The Sustainability Committee is helping maintain Riderwood’s habitat preservation efforts. It is examining the issue of bird feeding on which management had placed a moratorium in 2005 because of careless behavior by a few residents, and it has set up a partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to help residents understand how our efforts here fit into the larger picture.

All of these efforts will help Riderwood meet its goal of being the leader in sustainability among retirement communities nationwide.

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