CHARLESTOWN — Approximately 10 women and their yoga instructor were at peace Saturday in the pavilion at Avalon Park overlooking the Northeast River, as they stretched their bodies this way and that way, sat still crossed-legged with their eyes closed and rested on their backs.
The yoga class, comprised of students at Lil Lack Yoga in North East, was one of the activities during the first Open House at the town-owned park located on the corner of Water and Louisa streets.
“This is wonderful. I love just looking out on the water. It gets your mind off of everything,” said North East-area resident Jessie Mitchell, who started doing yoga about three years ago. “I sleep better now. My back doesn’t hurt. I don’t stick with anything, but this — yoga — I stick with it.”
Contrasting the serenity of that yoga session, three watershed stewards — Lisa Lane, Anne Polakovic and Rich Braco — along with a group of fellow watershed stewards and volunteers were toiling away in a 450-square-foot patch of land as they installed a native plant demonstration garden as their capstone project.
In addition to being watershed stewards after going through the University of Maryland Extension Watershed Steward Academy, which involves attending conservation classes and doing community projects, Lane is a teacher at Elkton High School while Polakovic and Braco are teachers at Calvert Elementary School and Rising Sun High School respectively.
Digging holes and shoveling soil on that sunny, breezy day, the watershed stewards were planting 10 varieties of wildflowers that will help the ecosystem, according to Janine Antoshak, a 2016 Watershed Steward Academy graduate who also is office manager at Charlestown Town Hall.
“These plants can dig their roots through rock and bad soil and flourish and drink up the water,” Antoshak said, explaining that the plants in that garden would reduce flooding and storm water runoff in that area. “The runoff that goes into the water is unclean.”
Making the project financially possible, Antoshak secured a $2,000 Keep Maryland Beautiful Grant through the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), Maryland Environmental Trust, and Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT).
In addition to reducing flooding and stormwater runoff, which will lower the amount of pollutants seeping into the Northeast River, the native plants in that garden will attract butterflies and humming birds. Beyond the garden’s conservation benefits, the attraction of the butterflies and humming birds will, according to Antoshak, “accentuate the peaceful nature of this waterfront park.”
A permanent color sign highlighting the native plants and the benefit to the environment and wildlife will be installed at a later time, she said.
The native plant garden will be aesthetically pleasing during most seasons because the wildflowers bloom at staggered times throughout the year, according to Lane, who commented, “Something will always be blooming — spring, summer and fall.”
The project was a collaborative effort between WSA graduates — representing three different classes — and the Charlestown Green Team.
“This is the first project where members of three different classes worked together,” noted Bryan Lightner, who also is a master watershed steward.