ALDERSGATE GARDENS AND NATURE-BASED PLAYGROUND
Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Lincoln, Nebraska won IPL’s Cool Congregations Challenge Sacred Grounds award for transforming a 1.9 acre lawn surrounding the congregation into a neighborhood park and arboretum featuring a a landscaping plan that benefits the environment and serves the community by providing habitat for wildlife, immersion in nature, and nature-based play for children.
The members of Aldersgate were concerned about the levels of obesity and stress reported statistically in the residents of the neighborhood and sought to contribute to the solution by providing the benefits of exposure to nature – reduced symptoms of depression, stress, anxiety, and enhanced psychological well-being.
The garden includes a 1,000 foot raingarden, native plantings, and a nature based playground with an 11-foot, 1.5-ton section of ash trunk climbing structure. The upper deck of the fort reaches into the branches of a nearby ash tree. They hope the large number of families in the neighboring large apartment complexes will use it. They calculate that their plantings now sequester 1.4 tons of carbon on average per year for the first 25 years, and in 50 years when the trees are mature they will sequester 8 tons per year. Aldersgate Gardens is a Landscape Steward Site affiliated with the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum. To meet the education requirements for affiliation, they placed plant labels next to each variety of plant. They have engaged the community in the renovation and in subsequent educational events in the park. Last summer the Audubon society included Aldersgate Gardens on its annual tour of backyard habitats; between 300 and 400 people visited on that day. Aldersgate UMC will undertake multiple efforts next spring and summer to encourage visitation of the playground by people living in the vicinity including nearby home day care providers.