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Providence Center, MRA, and AACC partner for healthier rivers

| July 31, 2015, 11:38 AM | 1 Comment
Providence Center Rivers partnership

Left to right, Paul Spadaro, President of the Magothy River Association, and Nathan Ullrich, Manager of Providence Center’s Horticulture Program, stand behind a basket of native plants that will be used in a floating garden. The gardens hold three baskets of plants.

Providence Center, a non-profit organization that serves adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Anne Arundel County is teaming up with the Magothy River Association (MRA) and Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) to make our rivers healthier. The organizations are producing a floating garden at Providence Center’s greenhouses that will provide both a natural filtration process as well as create a habitat for wildlife. The gardens are part of a larger project called the Greener Shoreline Initiative to replace lost native shoreline and habitat in the Chesapeake tributaries.

The floating garden design was created at AACC by Steve Ailstock, Director of the College’s Environmental Center, Technical Specialist Mike Norman, and Bruce Lenderking, a former student. The garden consists of a Styrofoam frame with three ports to hold native shoreline plants and is designed to anchor to a pier. As the roots grow they act like filtering straws to improve water clarity and absorb excess nutrients caused by runoff. The cluster of floating roots creates a natural habitat for small fish, crabs, and shellfish. The plants also stave off deadly algae blooms by using them in natural growth processes and photosynthesis.  

The floating gardens will be produced exclusively by Providence Center and are an easy way for home owners and businesses to easily do their part to improve the environment. Providence Center growers are assembling the frames and growing the plants for the gardens.  They earn a paycheck for their work.

“This is a wonderful enterprise for our growers and for Providence Center,” said Nathan Ullrich, Horticulture Manager. “Not only does it build on our experience with native plants and advance our work to improve the environment, the project will help develop skills and independence for everyone working on the gardens. I expect that every grower will be involved as well as some participants outside our traditional horticulture team.” 

Paul Spadaro, President of the MRA, said, “Floating gardens are the next big thing to improve the health of our Bay and will put us exactly where we need to be to improve oxygen levels, water quality, and create the habitats essential to our waterways.” He added, “Providence Center’s growers are providing the capacity to push this project forward, enabling us to keep up with the demand for the plants and trays.” 

Steve Ailstock said, “It’s a terrific, unique partnership between the College, the Magothy River Association, and Providence Center – one that provides a very cost-effective approach to environmental restoration.” He adds that there is scientific value to the project as well as they study which plants are best suited to different areas of the rivers.

The floating gardens can be purchased fully-assembled for $150, or bought as a kit for $100. They are easy to assemble and shoppers can choose from a variety of plants. At the end of the season, customers can recycle their old plants and purchase new plant baskets for $10. Without the exchange, new baskets are $14 each. To purchase a floating garden, or for more information, contact Nathan Ullrich at [email protected]

The mission of Providence Center, a non-profit organization based in Anne Arundel County, is to provide services that allow individuals with disabilities to enjoy increased self-determination in leading a more independent, valuable and functioning role in society. These support services are individually designed and professionally managed to enable these individuals to exercise higher levels of control over their lives. Providence Center operates four program sites which provide care and training to nearly 500 men and women with developmental and intellectual disabilities through an array of services and supports, including medical, job preparedness and training, mentoring, production, Supported Employment, senior care, art, and day habilitation.

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