Howard County Conservancy Now Has Two Locations: Mt. Pleasant and Belmont
By Susan Kim, Staff Writer
Now with two locations — the 232-acre Mt. Pleasant headquarters in Woodstock and the Belmont Manor and Historic Park in Elkridge — the Howard County Conservancy is seeing spring-like growth during its 25 anniversary year.
If businesses aren’t already involved with the conservancy, Allison Anderson, the conservancy’s assistant director, urged them to think about becoming a conservancy partner. “It’s one of the most unique, interactive partnerships around,” she said. “We have lots of businesses hold their annual team-building sessions or holiday parties here. Rental income is a source of funding for us. Businesspeople start off donating money, then they come here to learn, bring their families and even become volunteers.”
The main location, Mt. Pleasant, has four miles of trails, including self-guided hikes, as well as an historic barn and farm outbuildings, a butterfly garden and the 8,700-square-foot Gudelsky Environmental Education Center, a facility that houses classrooms, meeting rooms and a nature center.
The Belmont location is open for scheduled events only, and there the conservancy is located in the carriage house on the park grounds.
Raising Funds for Expansion
The conservancy’s spring fundraiser, “Wine in the Garden/Beer in the Barn,” to be held on May 28 at the Mt. Pleasant facility, will raise money for both locations. The event will feature wine provided by Cindy’s Spirits in Elkridge, craft beers from Jailbreak Brewery in Laurel and food from a variety of local restaurants and caterers. Attendees can listen to bluegrass, stroll through the grounds and browse a silent auction.
The funds — as well as monies donated by business partners and private donors — will help preserve the conservancy as well as give even more people access to educational programs.
“We look forward to soon expanding the nature center to provide more program space. We have received initial funding and hope to finish fundraising in order to begin the work at the end of 2016,” said Meg Boyd, executive director. “We will unveil the plans at our 25th birthday celebration this fall. Wegmans just stepped up to sponsor the birthday celebration, and the date will be announced soon.”
Donors can have an ever-growing confidence in their investment in the conservancy since the nonprofit received the Standards for Excellence Institute’s Seal of Excellence for successfully completing the institute’s national accreditation program.
A peer review team at the Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations examined the conservancy’s compliance with the Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector in areas including: mission, strategy and evaluation; leadership: board, staff and volunteers; legal compliance and ethics; finance and operations; resource development; and public awareness, engagement and advocacy.
Volunteers — and Giving Back
Volunteers are the backbone behind the conservancy’s everyday operations, particularly at the Mt. Pleasant location. They head up tours, tend to gardens, perform trail maintenance, give lectures and donate time and money in many other ways.
On any given day, there is a sense of community as people work on their plots in the community gardens, harvesting seasonal vegetables. Last year, the conservancy donated 1,478 pounds of produce to the Howard County Food Bank.
The Mt. Pleasant location is a 300-year-old working farm donated for preservation by Ruth and Frances Brown, former Howard County schoolteachers. The conservancy agreed to permanently preserve the land through a conservation easement.
Step into the blacksmith’s shop, for example, and experience the same tools and buildings used long ago. Through a partnership with the Blacksmith Guild of Central Maryland, the shop is in use in ways that are true to its historical roots. Similarly, a partnership with the Howard County Beekeepers has allowed the conservancy to maintain hives and pollinate native plants and flowers.
As excited as Boyd and Anderson are about the conservancy’s growth, they quickly point out that it aims to preserve the past as well. “We take that honor very seriously,” said Anderson, “as we look forward and look back at the same time.”