Thursday, December 29, 2022

A Vote for Nature


This is an amazing photograph, certainly one to catch your eye as you scroll on social media. A rainbow arched over a snowy landscape?  Is that even possible? Clearly it is.

Image from Howard County Nature Conservancy

If you’ve come upon this photo in the last twenty-four hours then you know it isn’t heralding glad tidings. Beneath the photo you’ll find bad news from the Howard County Nature Conservancy.

During the bitter cold spell this week, all three floors of our environmental education center were flooded. Our loss is great, but we are grateful to our community and dedicated to our mission.

In addition to floors and ceilings on all levels of the building, we lost many furnishings, equipment and educational supplies. This flood was a devastating loss for our organization, yet we are grateful for our community that has already come together in our time of need. Among the most selfless were the volunteers who worked late into the night on Christmas Eve with buckets and mops in hand.

The high winds on the days preceding Christmas knocked out power for a substantial chunk of Howard County residents. Loss of power means loss of heat. Loss of heat during a cold snap can mean burst pipes. I wonder if that’s what happened here? 

The Conservancy has been an educational partner of the Howard County Public Schools since 2003. Over 20,000 students benefit yearly from their science/environmental literacy programs. They also host weekend events which are open to members of the community. Some are specifically targeted to families, others are of more general interest.

Have you ever been to the environmental education center? Opened in 2005, it’s a beautiful facility. 

Here’s an artist’s rendering that was shared in a Baltimore Sun article by Libby Solomon about the building’s opening after renovation and expansion in 2017.

This rendering shows the planned additions to the Howard County Conservancy’s Gudelsky Environmental Education Center, in Woodstock, which include an upper-level deck, a new visitor’s entrance to the nature center, an enclosed classroom in the adjoining native plants garden and more administrative and volunteer space. (Courtesy photo/Howard County Conservancy)

It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the thought that this building was brand new in 2005, expanded in 2017, and has now suffered such serious damage in 2022. Most nonprofits have to be careful with every penny and spend a big chunk of each year finding creative ways to bring in both small change and major funding. Damage like this is surely a setback, not only a financial one, but in the way it will negatively impact educational programming in the immediate future.

A generous donor has pledged to match donations (up to $20,000) until Dec. 31. We hope you will consider a gift to sustain our work, fund our recovery from this devastating loss and help connect more than 41,000 people to nature. 

I hope you will consider making a donation in these next few days if you are able. Whether large or small, each donation has a value that is more than monetary. Each individual donor is, essentially, casting a vote of confidence in the Conservancy and its programming. Right now when the immediate outlook is bleak, those ‘votes’ have got to feel reassuring to Executive Director Meg Boyd and all of the Conservancy team. 

These words in the appeal for donations touched my heart.

Our buildings will likely remain closed for months, but nature is still open.

The 232 acres of Mt. Pleasant, given by Ruth and Frances Brown in 1993 to establish the Conservancy, is still the star of the show, the reason they are there. 

Our grounds, where biodiversity thrives and people flourish, will remain open daily dawn to dusk.
Families, hikers, birders and school groups love to visit our hawk watch area during migrations when hundreds of warblers, raptors and vireos can be spotted. In our meadows you can find caterpillars and feasting birds. A rare Western Kingbird was sighted this year–a first in the county. Down at the stream, beavers are busy building their dam, where visitors can marvel at felled trees.

Nature is still open. 

Send a donation if you can, spread the word to boost their signal. And, in the next few days while the weather is relatively mild - - why not pay them a visit?

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