The D&L Blog

Delaware & Lehigh - Native Plant Gardening in the Lehigh Valley

The Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor is passionate about preserving the environment, sharing the culture of our region and positively impacting our communities. Hence we are pleased to introduce 2014’s first guest blogger and a key D&L partner. Dan Kunkle is the Executive Director of Lehigh Gap Nature Center. He is largely responsible for the directing the regeneration of Lehigh Gap and creating the new Conservation Landscaping Program being applied throughout the region.

Guest Blog written by:
Dan Kunkle, Executive Director of the Lehigh Gap Nature Center

Lehigh Gap Nature Center has taken an ongoing effort to promote native plant gardening and landscaping with native plants and turned it into a major project for the Nature Center. The Conservation Landscaping Program, as we are calling it, had its roots in the habitat gardens project around the Osprey House and expands our Rare Plant Garden Network as well.

The idea for the major project was initiated when Bernie Story, Executive Director of the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation (LVCF) spoke with LGNC Director Dan Kunkle and invited him to apply for a grant for a conservation project that would involve other conservation entities in the Lehigh Valley. A successful application provided a $20,000 grant that has been leveraged into over $82,000 for year one of the planned five-year project. Included in that leveraging was a $15,000 mini-grant from the Lehigh Valley Greenway Conservation Landscape, a project administered by the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor.

It also included a grant from the Rider Pool Foundation to work on gardens in the city of Allentown, and funding to enable us to hire Kate Brandes as the part-time project manager.

Collaborators in the Conservation Landscaping Program steering committee include Moravian and Muhlenberg College faculty members, D&L Heritage Corridor/Lehigh Valley Greenway, Nurture Nature Center, Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center, Wildlands Conservancy, and Lehigh Gap Nature Center.

So far in year one of the program, three projects have been completed. In May, we implemented phase one of our Allentown Urban Gardens Project when we replaced 21 front yard lawns on North 7th Street in Allentown with native plant gardens. This project is designed to beautify this heavily traveled gateway to the city and create habitat for native bees and a corridor for pollinators, such as butterflies. We also supported workshops and a native plant sale in Bethlehem by providing workshop participants with vouchers to help purchase native plants.

Another project, which was completed in June was done in collaboration with C.F. Martin, Inc (better known as Martin Guitar) in Nazareth. At a prominent location in the front of the famous Martin facility in Nazareth, we installed more than 200 native shrubs and perennials and an interpretive sign, plus Martin added another section to the garden on their own. Many visitors to Martin Guitar will see these gardens and read the sign. Nurture Nature Center in Easton also received support for plants for their urban pollinator garden that was already in progress when we contacted them about our Conservation Landscaping Program.

In addition to these projects completed in spring, 2014, we have other projects lined up for autumn at Moravian College, Muhlenberg College, Trexler Park in Allentown, Circle of Season Charter School in Fogelsville, and at the community gardens at Jordan Meadows in Allentown. And this is just year one of what will hopefully be a five-year project. More workshops are being planned as well. If you know a school, business, corporate campus, municipal property, non-profit property, or other publicly visible space at which the owners are potentially interested in conservation landscaping, please have them contact Kate Brandes at [email protected] or call us at 610-760-8889.