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SCUCC designated as ‘Garden for Wildlife’

By Staff | Apr 29, 2019

TIFFANY REPECKI CREW youth group leader Dr. Dana Crater with members Luke Crater, 11, and Henry Whitman, 14, during the dedication ceremony on April 22 at the Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ.

The Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ’s campus was recently certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a haven for local wildlife, thanks to the combined efforts of three groups.

On April 22 – Earth Day – members of church, including its CREW group, Green Team, and Children and Youth Committee, took part a dedication ceremony to mark the grounds being designated by the NWF as a “Garden for Wildlife” and unveiled its official Certified Wildlife Habitat sign.

Nancy Jones, with the Children and Youth Committee, originally raised the idea of seeking the certification. The committee then involved the Green Team, and the entities reached out to the CREW youth group and suggested that the middle and high school students pursue the “green” activity.

“We wanted to support it right away,” Jean Chandler, chair of the Green Team, said. “Because it has to do with having a green garden, an environmentally responsible garden.”

She explained that the Green Team focuses on conservation by hosting electronics recycling drives, vegetarian potlucks and programs on plant-based eating, presentations on food waste, and more.

TIFFANY REPECKI The National Wildlife Federation's Certified Wildlife Habitat sign designating the Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ's campus as a “Garden for Wildlife.”

CREW leaders Dr. Dana Crater, Jim McCallion and Dr. Brit Stroud also jumped at the idea.

“It was something that they could do together – that they could coordinate on,” Crater said of the children and adults, adding that it was a great opportunity. “We all worked through it together.”

In order to receive the certification, a checklist of criteria set by the NWF had to be met.

So, one evening with the checklist in hand, the CREW leaders and several of the youth went on a scavenger hunt to explore the property, including the main campus and 17 undeveloped acres located behind it. They checked off boxes in the categories of food, water, cover and places to raise young.

“You needed a certain amount from each category,” Crater said.

TIFFANY REPECKI The 17 acres of habitat behind the Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ can be seen from the Memorial Ground walkway.

“They had fun,” she added. “They were excited.”

For food, the habitat needed at least three types of plants or supplemental feeders, such as seeds and berries, foliage and twigs, pollen or animal feeders. In the category of water, the habitat had to feature a clean water source for wildlife to drink and bathe in, such as a stream, river, spring or even bird bath.

For cover, wildlife needed at least two places to find shelter from the weather and predators, such as wooded areas, ground cover, burrow and dense shrub or thicket. As for places to raise young, there had to be at least two places for wildlife to engage in courtship behavior, mate, bear and then raise young.

“It was a great learning experience for them, to learn the different types of species of plants and the diversity we have in our own church garden,” Crater said.

The CREW group also checked off boxes in a fifth category – sustainable practices.

To be certified, two of at least three practices had to be employed in managing the habitat in a sustainable way in the subcategories of soil and water conservation, controlling exotic species and organic practices, like eliminating chemical pesticides and chemical fertilizers or composting.

During the dedication, the Rev. Dr. John H. Danner shared a couple words. He explained that the congregation made a promise to help protect the environment, as stated in the church covenant: “We will do all we can to protect as well the birds, animals and plants on this fragile barrier island.”

“It’s in the actual church covenant,” Danner said.

He continued that the 17 acres in the back of the church, which is a mixture of upper and lower wetlands, is a habitat that “is something God and nature have had going on for centuries.”

“It was here long before any of us were here,” Danner said.

The Rev. Deborah Kunkel commended the involved groups, especially CREW.

“They went out back and digged through those 17 acres,” she said.

A representative from the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation was present for the ceremony.

“It’s absolutely wonderful to have not only the church be involved in creating sustainable wildlife habitat, but also bringing in the future generations to sustain initiatives that better the island,” Alexis Horn, a spokeswoman for the SCCF, said.

Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ is at 2050 Periwinkle Way.