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Conservation Stories: Eileen Herring & Alan Sanders

Updated: Oct 11, 2023

A man and woman stand with a sign in front of foliage
Eileen Herring & Alan Sanders stand in front of their newly planted native landscaping.
“Creating a more natural landscape is such a great opportunity, and of course there’s less lawn for Al to mow, so he’s happy about it.” – Eileen Herring

Eileen Herring and Alan Sanders enjoyed spending time in their yard in Birch Bay but were looking for an opportunity to convert their lawn into something more useful. Eileen has always preferred plants over lawn, liking the look and sustainability of native landscaping. Over the years, they purchased native plants through Whatcom Conservation District’s (WCD) Native Plant Sale and other venues. However, converting their yard felt like an overwhelming task.

Two photos of the same yard. One is labeled before and the other after. The before photo has more lawn and less plants.
Alan & Eileen's side yard before and after participating in NNLP

When they heard about the Neighborhood Native Landscaping Program (NNLP), they jumped at the chance to participate. NNLP is a program sponsored by Birch Bay Watershed and Aquatic Resources Management District (BBWARM) and jointly managed by the WCD and Whatcom County. The goal is to convert existing lawns and landscaping into native plant gardens. It provides homeowners with planning guidance, permitting assistance, site prep, mulch, and of course, native plants! An important part of NNLP is getting a group of close neighbors (generally within walking distance) to participate, resulting in a cluster of native landscaping projects installed during a neighborhood planting party. Eileen and Alan heard about the program through the BBWARM newsletter, which they subscribed to after participating in a rain barrel program a few years ago.

A man holds a potted plant over a whole in the ground.
Alan during their planting party

In 2022, Eileen and Alan signed up to convert 1,610 square feet of their lawn into native landscaping through NNLP. After finalizing the planting plans, cardboard was laid down over the grass and mulch was installed to provide weed suppression and moisture retention. Ninety-three native plants of various species were installed in the new beds in the fall of 2022. Some species included beach strawberry, red columbine, deer fern, nodding onion, evergreen huckleberry, mock orange, serviceberry, red elderberry, goat’s beard, salal, and more! They are happy with the results and excited to track the changes over time.

”It’s only been a year, but they’re growing! And hopefully will fill in the space soon and provide shade for that half of the yard. I’m excited to see the birds, bees and critters being able to use that space in the future! I’m so very pleased and grateful to be a recipient of these plants and all the help!” – Eileen Herring

NNLP participants are responsible for maintaining their newly installed yard, but with native landscaping that is not a big chore. Eileen and Alan have experienced minor plant mortality, minimal weeds, and some watering maintenance.

“A couple of things didn't make it through the first winter. I replaced them with ferns from the [Whatcom Conservation District] native plant sale and with bleeding hearts from elsewhere in the yard.” – Eileen Herring

A mulched garden bed next to established plants and a lawn.
Part of Alan and Eileen's Native Plant Landscaping

When asked if they would recommend the program, Eileen responded, “Yes, I would recommend this program to others…it’s all working out well and we’re excited and grateful to have all these wonderful plants around us.”

Site prep is complete for this year’s NNLP participants and they are excitedly anticipating their planting parties this fall. Interested in participating? Visit Whatcom County’s website to learn more and fill out the NNLP interest form today. Currently, NNLP is only being offered in Birch Bay and Lake Whatcom watersheds. Capacity is limited to 10-15 participants per year in each watershed, depending on available funding. Due to the cluster model, the more of your neighbors who sign up, the more likely your neighborhood will be selected to participate.

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