LeisureTowne, NJ Community pulls together to plant a Firewise Garden

by Michal Holland, NFPA Public Affairs Intern

Preparedness Day project in Southampton Township, New JerseyLeisureTowne is a Firewise community located in Southampton Township, New Jersey. Within the community there are 2,250 homes encompassing 2,000 acres surrounded by the Pine Barrens in Burlington County.

The Firewise committee realized after completing over 523 wildland fire risk and hazard assessments on homes in LeisureTowne one area needed to be addressed because the type of plants and shrubs planted next to homes could be flammable.

Initially, their Wildfire Community Preparedness Day project was to construct a “Community Garden”, with raised beds that were 4’ x 12’ x2’ high in an unused area that is 35’ x 52’. In this location there would have been two butterfly gardens and some smaller raised beds for residents to plant flowers, vegetables, or herbs.

Unfortunately according to Carrie Poster community manager, Mother Nature in the form of rainy days and the presence of poison ivy where the volunteers would be working caused them to put the project on hold and choose a different location to plant their garden.

When Wildfire Community Preparedness Day approached they decided to plant a Firewise Garden in front of the LeisureTowne Association Office.  This project would be utilized as an educational tool for the residents and landscapers, doing planting projects around their homes. Many homeowners and landscapers are unaware of the dangers associated with the plants and shrubs that are highly flammable.

The entire process took about 30 days from start to finish. Maintenance staff cleared the new location of mulch and Firewise committee members searched for the appropriate plants for the garden online at www.Firewise.org. Check out the Firewise Landscaping and Plant Lists.

Once the plants were purchased, a staff member from the maintenance department planted them as the office staff did the watering. Next was to purchase a weed barrier and stones/rocks to place in the front of the association office in a 4’ x 30’ area. After the weed barrier was laid down four members of the Hampton Lakes Volunteer Fire Company Post 172 Explorers helped place the stones on the ground.

The members of the LeisureTowne Firewise Community were a recipient of funding awarded from State Farm, which was used to purchase plants, weed barrier and stones. They allotted part of the funding to the Garden Club and gave a donation to the Hampton Lake Fire Company Post 172 in appreciation for all their assistance with this project.  Receiving the funding award made it possible to complete the Firewise Garden and to assist other groups with their efforts to beautify their community and keep them safer in the event of a wildfire.

LeisureTowne’s original location for the Community Garden is now clear of the poison ivy and they’re ready to start construction of the raised beds. Additional fundraising projects for irrigation and materials are currently being conducted. Their plan is to have this area ready in the spring of 2017.