By Chante Goodger,
Chesapeake Bay Trust Spring Semester Intern
Headstones would float as the stormwater runoff flowed from an uphill park into the historic African American church’s cemetery, where civil war soldiers as well as Harriet Tubman’s descendants are buried.
This has come to an end at the Asbury-Broadneck United Methodist Church (ABUMC) cemetery in Annapolis, Maryland. The Chesapeake Bay Trust, through the Anne Arundel County Watershed Restoration Grant program, awarded ABUMC and project partner the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay funding so that they would be able to finally fix the issue. “The historical and cultural context of this project make it that much more unique and important as it reflects a direct-action response to embracing environmental restoration and diversity and inclusion in natural resource management,” said Randy Rowel, Jr., Asbury Broadneck United Methodist Church Stormwater Disciple.
According to Abbi Huntzinger, Maryland Restoration Program Manager for the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, “This project was truly transdisciplinary project approach with engineers, landscape architects, and also archeologists in case there were remains found during construction.”
Restorative work began in November 2018 and has been completed; with a unique step pool conveyance system, an imbricated channel, and one more step pool that drains out into a mowed wetland which was originally a grass wetland. “The church members did the planting,” said Ms. Huntzinger. And to do so, church members sought certification through the Anne Arundel County Watershed Stewards Academy. Additionally, the church funded and built the bridge entrance to the cemetery grounds.
In fact, before the current church was built there was another church which burned down during a fire in the 1900’s. “All of the burial records of who was buried here were lost in the fire,” says Ms. Huntzinger. Consequently, that made it difficult to pinpoint where the restorative team would site the project without disturbing the “forever residents of the cemetery.”
As a further preventative, the restoration team upgraded existing stormwater management practices at the Broadneck Park so that the stormwater would filter through the larger stones and the smaller stones, in the swale. The rocks in the swale prevented the water from running off into a nearby house’s backyard which led into the cemetery.
The area is now thriving with thousands of tadpoles, dragon flies, wetland plants and the grave sites are secure as you walk around the historic African American church grounds. “This project is about planting seeds in our community to show them the great positive aspects of connecting with nature, restoring nature, and preserving our communities of colors legacy,” remarked Mr. Rowel.