When Pastor Sean Dogan arrived at Longbranch Baptist Church, located in an under served community, the area was filled with dilapidated shotgun houses and was a magnet for crime. The Church purchased land and a total of 33 houses, which needed to be removed. Longbranch Baptist worked with the local fire department to burn all of the houses as training exercises. Once that was completed, they intended an expansion of their gym and worship center on land that included a highly eroded and trash filled stream. Pastor Dogan was concerned that their new construction would fall into the stream and so planned to pipe the entire stream.
The Greenville County Soil and Water Conservation District and NRCS offered technical assistance for the Church to restore the stream bank and turn it into a trickling brook that would be the centerpiece of the Church's new community space. The phases of the project, completed with the help of partners, has turned the area into a beautiful greenspace with a safe playground.
Phase 1 - The Creek
The creek on the property entered an outlet pipe very near the building. It was unattractive concrete and soil was eroding beneath and behind the concrete which could lead to structural problems with the building. The creek itself had become overgrown, and had become a dumping ground for the neighborhood. Long Branch Baptist Church asked NRCS for advice, while
The Greenville SWCD was able to engineer the project and the church paid for the stream restoration.
+ The inlet, a conjunction of two pipes, was stabilized
+ The creek bed itself was covered with native stone and stream restoration structures were used to reduce erosion and to beautify.
+ The outlet was extended away from the building, and the embankment there was stabilized.
Phase 2 - The Outdoor Learning Center and Tree Plantings
Dave Demarest of the Foothills RC&D council asked what the church planned to do with the space. He suggested applying for a grant for an outdoor learning center.
+Palmetto Pride provided a grant for the work which included construction of an outdoor learning space. The grant application included a donation from Trees Greenville for tree plantings.
+The Greenville SWCD provided environmental classes to area children in the new learning center.
Phase 3 - The Playground
The property was beautiful and had a place for learning. The church realized that there was no safe place in the neighborhood for children to climb and play. A partnership between local churches and the Greenville SWCD brought an inviting playground to the park-like property. Christ Church Episcopal school youth and Long Branch youth worked together to help install the playground. The Greenville SWCD provided a shade sail to keep the playground bench shaded.
The Church and community surrounding it now have a beautiful greenspace and a stream that is healthy. The Church membership is growing and wildlife has new habitat. This project was an excellent example of community partnerships and how local, state, and federal agencies can work together to clean up neglected urban areas. Community members are using the greenspace for weddings, family gatherings, and community meetings.
Video of the project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
"It's wonderful to see the community come together. Anytime the community, faith based and even governmental can come together, work together for collaboration and for partnership, it's always a beautiful thing. The local community has responded to the new greenspace in a wonderful way." Pastor Sean Dogan
"in my 24 year career, working with Longbranch Baptist Church has been the best project that I am the most proud of." Lynne Newton, NRCS District Conservationist