In 2016, Aldersgate United Methodist Church began a major transformation of its 1.9 acres of green space. The vision for Aldersgate Gardens is to benefit the environment and serve the community by providing habitat for wildlife, immersion in nature, and nature-based play for children.
Since the spring of 2017 through fall 2019, the church has planted 94 trees, 396 shrubs, 436 perennials, 129 grass plants, and 3500 native grass plugs. This includes many different varieties of plants: 41 varieties of trees, 42 varieties of shrubs, 56 varieties of perennials, and 12 varieties of grasses. Aldersgate Gardens features a pollinator garden, a 1,000 square foot raingarden, and a place for meditation. We also transformed a section of the strip between street and sidewalk into a ‘prairie parkway’. We built a new nature-based playground in the fall of 2019.
Plant markers provide the common and scientific names of almost everything planted in the last 3 years, and an online catalog (http://www.aldersgatelinc.org/plant-catalog) of plants provides additional details of what is growing at Aldersgate Gardens.
Plans for the spring of 2020 include landscaping the playground and all of the areas surrounding the parking lot. Entrance signs on Pinedale Avenue and South Street will welcome the public, and paths will lead from the entrances to the playground. Picnic tables and an outdoor grill are also possible.
A picture of the rain garden after a heavy shower is below.
The nature-based playground features a hill slide, toddler swing, wooden fort, and a large 10’ x 6’ sand pit for digging. An 11-foot, 2.5-ton section of an ash tree provides a climbing structure. The upper deck of the fort reaches into the branches of a nearby tree. A safe surface of engineered wood fiber protects against falls while allowing accessibility by wheel chairs.
Playground features and the setting emphasize nature. Many studies document the benefits of nature. Access to parks encourages more exercise, which “increases strength, flexibility, and endurance; relieves symptoms of depression and anxiety; improves mood; and enhances psychological well-being.” Studies also show that direct exposure to nature is essential for a child’s healthy physical and emotional development. Scientific evidence links the lack of nature in children’s lives and the rise in obesity, attention disorders, and depression.
The playground is intended to serve the neighborhood. A large number of families with children including residents in two large apartment complexes live closer to Aldersgate than the nearest city park. Eventually, entrance signs on Pinedale Avenue and South Street will welcome the public, and paths will lead from the entrances to the playground.
A link to a pictorial history of the playground under construction is below.
(pdf of Pictorial History of Playground Construction)
As a landscape steward affiliate site of the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum, Aldersgate Gardens serves an educational mission by providing information on the wide diversity of plantings. Most trees and shrubs are labeled. In addition, the following catalogs provide detailed descriptions of the plants growing in specific areas.