More and more Townsend residents are vowing to provide sanctuary to birds, small mammals and insects four years after the town became the first and only municipality in Delaware to earn certification as a Community Wildlife Habitat.
Displaced wildlife might not seem like a major concern for a town that’s grown by more than 500 percent over the last 15 years.
But in Townsend, providing sanctuary for birds, small animals and even insects has become a community affair.
“This was their property first, so it was important to us to make sure we gave the animals a place they could come and enjoy,” said Carmen Mack, whose Townsend Village II home was one of the first properties in town to earn certification as a wildlife habitat from the National Wildlife Federation back in 2008. “My husband and I just try to keep different things in our garden that the animals like, and it brings joy to our lives to be able to watch the deer, raccoons, birds and butterflies from our kitchen window.”
Small, individual efforts from residents like the Macks helped Townsend to become the first municipality in Delaware to earn certification as a Community Wildlife Habitat from the National Wildlife Federation in 2010.
Nationwide, fewer than 100 cities and towns have achieved the certification, although many others have registered in the program, including Newark, Del.
Townsend’s certification came only after three years of dedicated effort among community partners that included town government, residents, Townsend Elementary School, the Delaware Nature Society, the Appoquinimink River Association and the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, according to former town councilwoman Karen Jennings, who oversaw the final stages of the certification process following her election in 2009.
“Knowing that we had an environmentally-minded community, I thought this certification project would be a fantastic initiative to begin my term,” said Jennings, who served on town council for six years before stepping down in 2013.
Under the guidance of recently-elected Town Councilwoman Lorraine Gorman, Townsend is continuing to maintain its certification as a Community Wildlife Habitat by earning “points” through education and outreach projects, volunteer training efforts and helping to convince more homeowners to seek their own certification through the program.
Today, more than 30 homes and other properties in the town of 2,500 residents have earned individual certifications from the nonprofit by demonstrating that their yards provide local fauna with sources of food and water, natural cover and areas to raise their young.
“I first learned about it after asking about the certification plaque I saw hanging in town hall,” explained James Ciliberto, whose 24-acre wooded property off of Dexter Corner Road was one of three new homes to earn certification in 2013. “As soon as I knew it was available, I said, ‘That’s for me,’ because we love watching the animals out here. But come to find out it mostly involved things my wife and I were doing already, like leaving brush for animals to hide in and making sure there were plenty of plants that could keep them fed.”
As part of its ongoing efforts to maintain certification, the town also will be sponsoring a free, guided nature hike through the Blackbird Creek Reserve on March 20 in recognition of National Wildlife Week from March 17 to March 24.
“The town council, homeowners and local students worked so hard to achieve Community Wildlife Habitat, so we want to honor that effort by keeping it going,” Gorman said. “Plus with all the growth that’s happening in the area, I think it’s really important to also keep our focus on the environment. Townsend might be just one little piece of that, but every little bit helps.”
For more information about the National Wildlife Federation’s Wildlife Habitat Certification program, pick up a brochure at Townsend Town Hall or visit nwf.org/How-to-Help/Garden-for-Wildlife.aspx.
You can also call 378-8082 to join the Blackbird Nature Hike from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on March 20.