Geothermal Townhouses Turn Lawn into Regenerative Woods & Meadows

communicating with nature

by Aggie Perilli

The Grandview Chase Condominium Development (GCCD) in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, owns approximately 27 acres of rolling lawns bordered by a field with a stream running through it. Over the past two years, GCCD board members Mark Wiker and I pursued a federal grant to transform GCCD’s unsustainable field of lawn into beautiful, regenerative woods and meadows.

Rewarded for our initiatives, this past spring, the GCCD townhouse association received a grant worth $66,000 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s (NFWF) Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund to restore GCCD’s riparian buffer with native trees, meadow grasses and rain gardens or, in this field, hundreds of wildflowers.

GCCD’s grant is part of Penn State Agriculture and Environment Center’s initiative to “green the lower Susquehanna River,” where agriculture and housing developments are contributing to storm-water runoff and other pollutants. GCCD was chosen by NFWF to model regenerative landscaping for urban and suburban communities throughout Lancaster County.

GCCD was already engaging in green lawn care, with guidance from Dr. David Dobbins, Emeritus Professor of plant anatomy and development, morphology and horticulture at Millersville University in Pennsylvania.

In June, to build on GCCD’s progress, Kate Austin of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation introduced residents to Penn State University environmentalists Matt Royer, Director of the Agriculture and Environment Center; Allyson Muth, Director of Forest Stewardship; Jim Finley, Ph.D., Professor in Forest Resources; Sarah Hurteau, Research Faculty member in Wildlife Biology; and Emily Carlson, a graduate student representing Brian Orland, Distinguished Professor of Landscape Architecture. Together, we reviewed residents’ landscaping dreams and concerns.

In July, during our second of three planning sessions, Kate and GCCD’s Penn State partners discussed how to restore GCCD’s riparian buffer to prevent storm-water runoff and shade and protect our fish. We considered plant communities that would attract wildlife and improve the quality of water which flows from GCCD’s stream into the Susquehanna River, which flows into the Chesapeake Bay.

Today, GCCD is home to red foxes, great blue herons, pheasants, ducks, tree-climbing groundhogs, and more. Further greening of GCCD is expected to attract several varieties of salamanders, frogs, turtles, birds, and other wildlife.

In August, Brian Orland and other Penn State partners provided residents with architectural models to use to design GCCD’s plantings. A refinement of residents’ designs will be planted this spring by LandStudies, an environmental planning and restoration firm.

Neighbors share GCCD’s enthusiasm for building naturally beautiful ecosystems that restore and protect our environment and improve the quality of all life.

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