Sacred Places Winter 2019 - Page 7

Instead of piping storm water to the Conestoga River and downstream to the Chesapeake Bay, polluted runoff from surrounding rooftops and pavement is now filtered by indigenous plantings and allowed to naturally infiltrate beneath terraced rain gardens and porous parking lot paving. Palm Sunday procession starting in the newly-constructed courtyard Photo: St. James Episcopal Church Saint James, along with its consultants and contractors—RGS Associates, MM Architects, and Warfel Construction—implemented master plan goals while also demonstrating environmental stewardship. For example, even though its cloistered courtyard seems deceptively simple on its surface, it captures and infiltrates more than 125,300 gallons of storm water below-grade each year. In addition to new permeable paving, this courtyard incorporates recycled materials including old bricks, decorative tiles, fencing, and cast-iron window grates repurposed as gates. Most existing trees were preserved. New plants were selected from native species and heirloom varieties. A customized fountain was inspired by the church’s baptismal font. Collectively, these features achieve another key project goal: reuse and retention of the historic church’s character-defining features. Effective resource conservation and stewardship were also key strategies for nearby Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster (CMCL). Visionary church leaders, City staff, and their design consultants worked to meet the parking needs of congregants and neighbors while adding new green infrastructure within a redesigned church parking lot. This project had specific goals established jointly by CMCL and City staff. Congregational goals included preventing the loss of any existing parking spaces, enhancing the surrounding neighborhood, and providing an outdoor learning area where the science and process of creative storm water solutions could be taught. The City agreed to fund 90% of green infrastructure costs if planned site improvements could also reduce neighborhood flooding, improve water quality, and actively engage the local community. All parties reached agreement, and city funding was provided. sewer system. Runoff is filtered via CMCL’s carefully tended plantings, which also provide seasonal changes in the landscape of interest to neighbors. Before this project, the neighborhood had a significant deficit of green spaces and parking spaces. Although some neighbors were skeptical of the proposed green space, many now proudly consider the greener parking area as a local park. By creatively providing spiritual, social, and environmental benefits within their small plots of urban real estate, Saint James Episcopal Church and Community Mennonite Church have demonstrated their commitment to creation care—showing that a church parking lot can become more than a place to store cars, and that a church courtyard can become more than an outdoor gathering space. These two innovative community spaces effectively layer multiple site amenities, serve as replicable examples of sound resource stewardship, and enhance historic components of Lancaster’s religious community. RGS Associates’ landscape architects and civil engineers contacted CMCL’s up-stream neighbors to observe roof drainage from their fenced yards — most of which discharged toward the church’s parking lot. To retain the required number of parking spaces while adding new plantings, CMCL decided to remove the rear portion of a vacant building near its worship place, salvaging and repurposing building materials. Local contractors Rogele, Reliance Environmental, BR Kreider and Son, and LandStudies constructed the new green spaces, resulting in increased storm water infiltration. Presently, 87.9% of yearly rainfall is prevented from entering the City’s combined Landscaped green parking lot for Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster Photo: RGS Associates SACRED PLACES • WINTER 2019 7