Upload new images. The image library for this site will open in a new window.
Upload new documents. The document library for this site will open in a new window.
Show web part zones on the page. Web parts can be added to display dynamic content such as calendars or photo galleries.
Choose between different arrangements of page sections. Page layouts can be changed even after content has been added.
Move this whole section down, swapping places with the section below it.
Check for and fix problems in the body text. Text pasted in from other sources may contain malformed HTML which the code cleaner will remove.
Accordion feature turned off, click to turn on.
Accordion featurd turned on, click to turn off.
Change the way the image is cropped for this page layout.
Cycle through size options for this image or video.
Align the media panel to the right/left in this section.
Open the image pane in this body section. Click in the image pane to select an image from the image library.
Open the video pane in this body section. Click in the video pane to embed a video. Click ? for step-by-step instructions.
Remove the image from the media panel. This does not delete the image from the library.
Remove the video from the media panel.
Sophie Phillips, a graduate student in energy and environmental
policy, and Prof. McKay Jenkins are helping revitalize a 10-acre tract
in southwest Baltimore as part of a project that combines ecology and
revitalize a 10-acre tract of dying and ecologically compromised woods
in southwest Baltimore have been described in a variety of terms in
recent news articles, from the spiritual (“Our Earth is a gift from
God,” says the pastor whose church owns the land) to the scientific
(“What we’re trying to build is a climate-adapted, resilient forest,”
according to a U.S. Forest Service researcher).
For church and community members, the project that is transforming a
damaged landscape into a peaceful and restorative green space has become
a way of combating years of the kinds of environmental neglect that are
common in many low-income and African American neighborhoods.
All those perspectives are shared by University of Delaware Prof.
McKay Jenkins and his students who have been involved in the creation of
Stillmeadow Peace Park.
But for them, the project has also become an opportunity to learn
firsthand about ecology and environmental justice while helping a
community address both those concerns.
“The focus of the project is on environmental stewardship of the
land, so this is a social as well as an ecological project,” said
Jenkins, who is Cornelius Tilghman Professor of English and directs UD’s
environmental humanities minor. “The ecological principles of diversity and restoration and balance apply to social conditions as well.”
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
Pastor Michael Martin of the Stillmeadow Community Fellowship
(left) talks with Sophie Phillips and McKay Jenkins about the
Stillmeadow Peace Park project.
Jenkins learned about the church, Stillmeadow Community Fellowship,
and its plans to revitalize its woods through an interfaith group. He
began volunteering in the early stages of the project and has been
inviting UD students, from classes such as environmental journalism,
environmental justice and environmental humanities, to join in. The
restrictions imposed since early last year by the coronavirus (COVID-19)
pandemic have made arranging transportation for the students more
difficult, but the work itself — with volunteers spread out over a large
outdoor area and wearing masks when needed — has been able to continue,
and many students are enthusiastic participants, Jenkins said.
The Stillmeadow church’s partners in the restoration work are the
U.S. Forest Service, which is the lead agency, as well as UD’s
Environmental Humanities Program, Blue Water Baltimore, Interfaith
Partners for the Chesapeake and other nonprofits and universities.
Work began about two years ago, when church members, community
residents and other volunteers began clearing out trash that had been
dumped in the wooded area. Fruit trees were planted for free picking by
neighbors. The volunteers then moved on to removing the tangles of
English ivy, bamboo and other invasive species that had overgrown the
As part of the project, fast-growing willows and poplars are being planted. The special hybrids can grow 6 feet a year.
For the Forest Service, the project is a pilot that the agency hopes
will serve as a model for restoring other degraded urban forests.
Researchers say that increasing the number of healthy trees in an area
can improve residents’ health and lives in many ways, from better air
quality to a reduced risk of local flooding.
Some 60% of the trees in the Stillmeadow tract were ash, a variety
that has been decimated across the U.S. by a destructive beetle known as
the Emerald ash borer. Forest Service workers cut down dead and dying
trees, and volunteers helped haul away the logs and debris.
Now, fast-growing willows and poplars — special hybrids designed to
shoot up 6 feet a year — are being planted in an area protected by new
deer fencing the volunteers have installed. The goal is an urban tree
nursery of 3,000 plants that will serve forests throughout the city.
For the church, the restored area will feature walking trails,
prayer circles and meditation stations, with the aim of providing a
peaceful oasis of green space where visitors can enjoy the Peace Park’s
stream, pond and wildlife.
“We all know from research that problems such as asthma, poverty and
heat islands [pockets of especially high summer temperatures] all
connect to the amount of tree cover in an area,” Jenkins said. “Having a
renewed urban forest serves multiple purposes. People in the community
here and the volunteers are all learning from each other, and everyone’s
awareness has increased about the importance of this kind of green
Students who work with the project describe it as educational,
empowering, rewarding and — most importantly — an opportunity to meet
church members and neighbors, including local teens and young adults,
who are working hard and guiding the plans for what the park will offer.
“This park is 100% for the community, and I really see it bringing a
positive energy to the city,” said Sophie Phillips, a public policy
graduate student who at UD is conducting research on ways that national
and state parks can foster more diversity and inclusion for visitors and
employees. “It will give the community a place they can go to get some
fresh air, a place to participate in really awesome events and a place
to learn about the environment. … This could even raise awareness of job
opportunities for people of color in environmental fields, which are
currently lacking in minority staff.”
Val Gould, also a graduate student in energy and environmental
policy, has focused their academic work on environmental justice and is
writing a master’s degree thesis on the Stillmeadow Peace Park and its
location in the Irvington neighborhood of Baltimore.
“The neighborhood will have an accessible green space that is healthy
and provides numerous opportunities for fellowship, entertainment,
healing and education,” Gould said. “It is my hope that the Peace Park
will continue to bring Irvington residents closer together and empower
the community to fight and unite against the systems that leave their
neighborhood under-prepared to meet future challenges.”
Another active UD volunteer, Grace Hussar, is a junior with a major
in environmental studies and a minor in environmental humanities, who
took a class taught by Jenkins in environmental literature. When she
looked for new opportunities for hands-on experiences, she said, she
found that Stillmeadow offered “the perfect combination” of
environmental fieldwork and community interaction.
And, she said, she expects work at the park to continue to involve and inspire residents and volunteers on an ongoing basis.
“The goal of restoration work is to positively impact the environment
and get things back on the right track,” Hussar said. “The great thing
about it is that it’s a process, one that can and should span across
generations as a collaborative effort.”
More environmental justice projects
Other UD faculty members and students are continuing to work on a
variety of issues related to environmental justice and the
rehabilitation of areas that have been affected by such factors as
industrial pollution, flooding and environmental neglect.
Article by Ann Manser; photos by Kathy F. Atkinson
Published April 20, 2021