Episcopal Diocese of Rochester
Joy in Christ, as a way of life

Wildlife Habitat Certified at Church

Democrat & Chronicle; 7/24/2011 HILTON — For the first time in Monroe County, a place of worship has a portion of its property certified as a National Wildlife Habitat.

St. George\'s Episcopal Church now hosts bluebirds, deer, rodents and other many-legged friends on its 10 acres off Old Wilder Road — where just a few years ago senior housing was proposed.

The church, which ministers to many older members, didn\'t realize how strongly the community felt about preserving green space until residents began to oppose the development. But the church listened.

'We wanted to communicate non-verbally, in a very visible and environmentally respectful way, that we were keeping with their wishes,' said the Rev. Rosemary Lillis, a master gardener and former pastor at the church.

Now the land offers such amenities as a retention pond and bird baths for water sources; oak trees, natural grasses and wildflowers for food; hedges and grasslands for shelter; and trees and bluebird houses for raising young. All of that takes dedication and constant tending, which could be why so few certified habitats are operated by faith groups.

Of the 142,000 certified habitats in the country, 427 are operated by places of worship, said Roxanne Nersesian Paul, senior coordinator of community and volunteer outreach at the National Wildlife Federation. The Hilton church joins just 21 others in the state of New York that have completed the certification process.

Even before the certification process began, St. George\'s had been taking steps toward becoming greener, said Sarah Stoll, senior warden at the church, and when the development plan faced opposition, everything seemed to point to turning the acreage into a welcoming place for all.

'It\'s a beautiful piece of property and it should be shared,' said Stoll, who helps mow a path around the pond and wishes that more people knew about the site and visited. 'God has called each of us to use our lives to benefit others, and we can use St. George\'s assets of land and assets of people.'

As for the seniors, the church is planning to add raised beds and plant sensory gardens for people with dementia and other ailments.

In Lillis\' studies, she\'s found that exposing people to green space can be restorative and lead to a decrease in violence. So while the certification is for wildlife, 'it\'s a good thing to do also for the two-legged animals,' she said.

'I think we need places of calm.'

Marketta Gregory is a freelance writer who lives in Greece.

See the article including photos at: http://www.democratandchronicle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2011107240345