On a recent rainy day, I grabbed my umbrella and headed to Fourth Street Park, home of a storied Sacred Place tucked in a downtown enclave of Annapolis — not far from our offices here at Nature Sacred. It got me thinking about how people discover Sacred Places, so I jotted down a few musings on the topic.
For those who don’t know me, I’m Erin, Chief Programs Officer at Nature Sacred. I’m the lucky person who gets to (safely) travel to Sacred Places across our Network — and every stop along the way inspires me to capture the details to share with others looking to help communities strengthen and come together in nature.
Some people are summoned into a Sacred Place — answering its call to sit on its bench, pause and reflect in a peaceful nature setting. Others are happened upon by happy surprise — a pocket of green eager to be discovered, creatively embedded into city landscapes. And in many instances, individuals are routinely drawn to their Sacred Places for community togetherness, events and programming.
Signage often plays a leading role in helping draw visitors in — piquing the interest of passers-by with relevant information, history, stories of place.
Take the Fourth Street City Park, for example. Along with his meticulous care for the maintenance and plantings at the park, Firesoul Jib Edwards led an initiative to replace and update the garden’s deteriorated signage last year. Jib and his community were moved to restore these vibrant signs, knowing how effectively they instill a sense of history and place to its community — and inspire environmental stewardship.
Fourth Street City Park falls under the ‘hidden gem’ category of Sacred Places — discreetly tucked in a street end park, with picturesque views of the Annapolis skyline and the Naval Academy. Nestled near Eastport Elementary School and bookended by restaurants, shops and businesses, this Sacred Place is almost always bustling with new and repeat visitors. Individuals looking for a quick dose of nature or a destination for meetings with friends and colleagues. And its story makes it even more unique.
The first wooden bridge, built in 1868, connected at the end of Fourth Street, serving pedestrians and horse-drawn wagons. Forty years later, a larger steel bridge was built in the same location for cars and trucks. The bridge tender lived on the bridge and opened the pivoting central span by hand-crank whenever a boat needed to pass through. On hot days, the steel expanded, preventing the span from closing properly until a fire truck was called to hose it down with cold water.
The drawbridge in use today was built in 1947 with heavy weights to counter-balance the center spans. If you hear a horn, watch how the bridge opens to let a sailboat through. (Here’s a short video clip of the current bridge in action, allowing sailboats to cruise up Spa Creek on a summer day.)
A proactive rain garden was installed in this Sacred Place to treat stormwater runoff from Fourth Street from polluting Spa Creek — right at the foot of the park. Pictures are included from a very rainy day in Annapolis where this rain garden was working hard to remove between 70% – 95% of pollutants from all runoff entering Spa Creek. Similar to the ways Firesouls serve their communities, this garden feature works tirelessly through stormy days to serve the Sacred Place and the beautiful waterway it graces.