NAIOP-MD volunteers delivered lasting benefits for nature center

One year after more than 130 NAIOP Maryland volunteers descended on Irvine Nature Center for its bi-annual Community Service program, the impact of their work is being felt by the nonprofit and tens of thousands of visitors.

“We have never before had a group that executed such a seamless and impactful effort, from soup to nuts,” said Irvine Nature Center’s Executive Director Brooks Paternotte. “Everything NAIOP Maryland accomplished – from the initial planning sessions to the organization and preparation leading up to the workday, and the actual execution – was extremely well done. That is not always the case for large groups and the activity was a true difference-maker.”

Volunteers performed the work during a stifling hot, atypical April afternoon and achieved a signature accomplishment: the construction of a permanent pergola at the Center’s Wedding Point.

“The red cedar lumber arrived on site a few days prior to the event and our staff watched in amazement because we realized we never could have afforded to buy those materials,” Paternotte said.

The NAIOP-MD group ranked among the largest volunteer groups ever hosted by Irvine Nature Center. Erecting the pergola was “the capstone of the day’s activity,” Paternotte said.

Hundreds of weddings have taken place since its erection and hundreds more have been booked for the future. Decorative vines are starting to inch up the pergola, adding a natural accent to the wooden structure.

NAIOP-MD volunteers also removed nearly 35 trash bags of garlic mustard weed, added several hundred pounds of native plant seed, and mulched 325 linear yards of the Understory Loop.

“Reseeding the pollinator meadow, which was performed meticulously by hand, has improved our environment in immeasurable ways,” Paternotte said. “For starters, we now enjoy more wildflowers and native grasses and fewer invasive species. This has created an improved habitat for native bees, butterflies and other insects, and attracted more diverse wildlife, such as different species of birds and other critters. It has had a remarkable impact on our entire environment.”

Paternotte said that, in preparation for the event, Irvine Nature Center staff premixed the seed but needed to store the materials in a cold environment in the days leading up to the activity.

“We did not have the capacity for all the seed, so we divvied up the supply at various locations around Owings Mills,” he explained. “NAIOP Maryland again came to the rescue that morning when volunteers traveled to different spots around Baltimore County to retrieve the mixture.

“Everyone was impressed with the professionalism of NAIOP Maryland from start to finish. During our initial planning sessions, they asked what our dreams for the day were, and then provided some of their own input. During give-and-take conversations over the course of several months, we arrived at a feasible plan and the NAIOP Maryland team executed it flawlessly.

“It is difficult to keep a large group active for many hours during a volunteer project, but NAIOP Maryland leveraged the different technical skills of its members and devised a feasible plan to produce effective and tangible results,” Paternotte said.  We will enjoy the fruits of their labor for years to come.”