We have talked a lot about the efforts we went through to do the inside of the church building. But that wasn’t the only set of issues we had to deal with. The outside also needed to be considered. There are a lot more moving parts to this than we had ever dreamed of. We wanted to have a beautiful setting for the church, but since the outside is mostly parking lot, that left us with less options than we would have liked.
In thinking about the parking lot, we decided that rather than have the traditional asphalt jungle, we would instead design it where the parking rows had an area between them with trees and shrubs (in the places where there were no nice trees) and grass. The thinking was that no two cars would be facing each other, front bumper to front bumper. There would always be ground in between them and the ground would have either a tree, scrub, or at least grass on it. The lot started heavily wooded, so after choosing the location of the church, we began walking through the woods marking all the trees we deemed to be useful, trying to make sure we were walking in roughly straight lines. While there were a lot of pines and broken trees, we would up with a nice amount of oak, cedar, and even some ash. There were also a bunch of Bartlett Pears and Azaleas in there. We brought in an arborist who helped us get the design right. He could look at a tree and knew exactly what it was and how robust it was.
This took an exceedingly long time. One of the things we found helpful was to fly a drone over the property and had it take a lot of pictures. One of the parishioners’ children had a drone he was only too happy to introduce into the service of the cause. This was really cool. It could be brought in close or zoomed out far, so we were able to get an excellent perspective of the entire lot. Once we had these pictures, we were better able to lay out how we wanted the whole thing to flow.
Once the church location was determined, which was painful since no two people agreed on where it should go, it was relatively easy to lay out the parking lot and grounds. Another component of all this is that we wanted to have an acre or so of peaceful, tranquil, wooded trails bordered by beautiful gardens that parishioners could enjoy before or after services, meetings, or just whenever they needed some down time. The goal was to put seating along the trails for people to relax and enjoy it. Ideally we could have built a pond in the middle of it, but the available area was just not big enough to accommodate that and the budget would not have accommodated it even if the land did. We are big believers in the notion that the outdoors is healing to the soul. We wanted to separate the parking area from the more tranquil settings but wanted the barrier to be something as nondescript as possible. The first thought was Leland Pines but one of the staff had experience with these and found they are too prone to diseases. And once one or more die, you now have to remove it and replace it with a tree that would be much smaller. So we abandoned that. We really wanted something that was no maintenance since the maintenance on what we already have will be substantial. We wound up contacting a fence company and carefully selected a 6 foot tall white vinyl privacy fence that was fairly attractive, not too tall, and served the purpose. Shrubs or trees would have been preferable but nothing we could find were no-maintenance.
Once the land was cleared by a tree service, we laid out the exact locations of everything using stakes and string to map it all out. Before doing anything on the outside, the church was built. The details of that are laid out on the Church Construction page. The grounds part of these projects must come at the end once all the heavy equipment is out of there. We had a route of ingress and egress laid out to minimize the damage to trees and other flora we wanted to preserve as best as possible. We brought in a fence company that constructed a temporary fence to help protect the most important things and also had them put in decorative fences around part of the parking lot, part of the walking trail, and a couple of the trees and shrubs we were trying to protect once the project was completed.
One last thing we were cognizant of was to try to prevent tree limbs from overhanging the roof. Several of us have had problems with our homes having this problem and since we were starting from scratch, it seemed we should go out of our way to insure any trees close to the buildings were not big trees. At the direction of a roofing company, we opted for 50 year architectural shingles. They advised it would not last 50 years, but 30 to 40 was not out of the question, particularly with the care we were taking to insure no damaging limbs, leaves, squirrels, or other components of nature would be affecting it.
Once all that was done, almost a year later, we finally got to doing the grounds.
As a final and kind of random note, Christmas is obviously very special here, and we take our Christmas decorating very seriously, more seriously than most as you might imagine. But we found after trying it ourselves a couple times that it was extremely time consuming and took us away from the many other things we have going on at that time of year. Turns out one of the staff knows a guy who owns a company that specializes in Christmas lighting. This seemed hard to believe, that a company could survive doing only that. But sure enough! We met and talked to him and found him to be a very pleasant guy who hit it off with everyone. He is an engineer who took an interest in doing specialty lighting many years ago and does it on the side now. We love his work and ideas, usually devoting a few of the staff to helping him get all the decorations up and down. This has become an anticipated annual event.
In the interest of trying to stay green, we are exploring solar panels for the roof. While they still seem awfully expensive, they sure are efficient. We seeked advice from a veteran-owned company that, among other products and services, sells solar panels in the mid-Atlantic. They explained the whole operation to us and advised that the cost should come down quite a bit over the next couple years due to the growing adoption of solar fields in an increasing number of communities around the country. So we are holding off for now but will revisit this annually.