Beautify Merchantville While Saving Costs: Create a Meadow

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When was the last time you passed by a meadow filled with flowers and plants in their natural habitat? You may soon experience such a sight at the Merchantville Community Center. The Green Team is seeking approval from the Borough Council to dedicate a section of lawn at the Community Center as a meadow, returning it to

its natural state. It would become Merchantville’s first meadow created in a public space. The idea is to replace a previously mowed and managed lawn area into a native habitat that attracts pollinators, adds visual interest, and creates a more sustainable environment. This takes the concept of “No Mow May” (a trend started in the U.K. in 2019 to leave lawns un-mowed during the month of May as habitat and food source for early-season pollinators) to the next level. According to Kerry Mentzer, a member of both the Green Team and the Garden Club, “the difference is that un-mowed lawns can look unmaintained whereas a meadow looks intentional and still fulfills the goal of reduced fuel use and reduced labor hours from mowing.”

Indeed, research has shown that consistently mowed lawns can diminish biodiversity as they don’t provide vital food for pollinators. The benefits of the proposed meadow are financial as well as aesthetic: it will reduce maintenance costs for the town by decreasing the area mowed by the Department of Public Works, it means fewer pollutants from the gas-powered lawn mowers seeping into the land and produce at the Community Garden, and it will provide a low-maintenance way to efficiently absorb the standing water that tends to pool in that area. Over the past few years, the Green Team has created several pollinator gardens along the bike path. Where there was once flat grass that required regular mowing, there are now areas of plants and flowering shrubs that attract birds and butterflies. In addition, the Green Team has worked with the Garden Club to create a pollinator garden at the Community Center. That project was born out of the need to redirect substantial rainstorm runoff coming from the direction of the golf course into a space that can absorb the water. The result is a mini ecosystem that allows native plants to protect the area from severe weather while attracting pollinators that, in turn, boost the growth of the herbs, flowering plants, and vegetables in the nearby community.

The Green Team wants to follow these successes with the creation of a community meadow in an area that is now mowed lawn. The area identified for this project (see “Area for proposed meadow” photo) was selected because it receives lots of natural sunlight while the ground tends to be soggy. The native plants envisioned for the meadow will provide a natural and effective drainage system while adding beauty and interest. This undertaking requires some patience as meadows don’t reach full bloom overnight. The area may simply develop on its own or it may require some additional seeding - either way, it will be closely monitored by the Green Team. Mentzer envisions a path going through the meadow (see “Proposed Meadow” photo) to allow residents to walk through and enjoy the beauty of the natural habitat as it unfolds.

The Green Team will present the official proposal to the Town Council at an upcoming public meeting. If approved, steps will begin this spring to turn what is now an unattractive and wet grassy area into a striking jumble of native plants and flowers that attract pollinators, creating both an aesthetic and financial benefit to the community.