By Jesse Poole
Gordon College News Service
(This story appeared May 20 in The Salem News feature section.)
IPSWICH, MA-The headquarters of the Ipswich River Watershed Association (IRWA) is off the beaten trail, but by turning onto their long, narrow 5mph driveway in Ipswich, you’ll find yourself more local than usual.
They call themselves “the voice of the river” and are dedicated to protecting water quality. For residents across the North Shore, that means the IRWA advocates the growth of local plants. So on their property they reveal the beauty of native plant-life in a variety of gardens.
But the aesthetic benefits of their colorful perennials, ornamental grasses, and numerous shrubs are not the only reason the IRWA encourages native growth.
“It’s better for the environment and it’s much cheaper,” said Cynthia Ingelfinger, outreach coordinator at IRWA. “Typically, unless you’re growing vegetables, local plants require no watering and no chemicals, just rainfall.”
Ingelfinger believes that we use far too much drinking water for our lawns when we don’t need to. Salem, Mass, for instance, is responsible for much of the water control issues the IRWA is facing. Of all the cities and towns using the Ipswich River for water supply, Salem has not reduced its water usage.
“On average, Salem uses 5.66 million gallons per day (mgd),” said Ingelfinger. According to research conducted by IRWA, Salem has used this same amount for the past decade, whereas Beverly has gone from using 5.3mgd to now 3.8mgd.
“If I had to guess, Salem just hasn’t received the same public outreach and incentive as other towns have,” said Ingelfinger. And Ingelfinger believes this is cause for concern, both fiscally and environmentally.
Nonetheless, she and the staff at IRWA have a slew of counteraction ideas. The underlying idea is called ‘greenscapes.’
Greenscapes are landscapes that help endorse water conservation. THE PRINCIPLE BEHIND GREENSCAPING IS?? The project seeks to educate people on the fundamentals of environmentally healthy landscaping and to promote proactive and informed citizenship.
How do we greenscape?
“Baby steps,” said Ingelfinger. “Leave your grass three inches or taller. If there’s a (town) water ban, don’t water your lawn.” She said to also ask nurseries for local plants so they’ll know there’s a higher demand for them.
“Non-native plants starve the food chain, providing little for the world around them,” said Dr. Dorothy Boorse, chair of the biology department at Gordon College in Wenham, Mass.
“Not everyone is going to cut down a non-native, invasive tree,” said Ingelfinger. “But hopefully if we can educate people, they won’t plant them. The basic gist, since native plants evolved here, they do better here.”
According to Boorse, the Ipswich River is one of the area’s great local resources. “It provides water for fourteen communities,” she said. “Pollution in the past and water use now, have damaged the river habitat; sometimes it even runs dry in stretches.”
Boorse said that in 2003 the Ipswich River was named the third most endangered river in America by American Rivers, a conservation group.
Curtis Dragon, organic land care professional and sustainable greenscaper, said, “Native plants will thrive in their natural environments, as apposed to invasive plants that take over and create monoculture's.”
The Ipswich River Watershed Association won the Environmental Merit Award from the United Sates Environmental Protection Agency on May 11 for its, “outstanding efforts in preserving New England’s environment.” The group received a plaque for the honor, but have been so busy, they having had time yet to hang it.