And over the summer, he and his team did just that.
NAWT is a part of the North Andover Improvement Society dedicated to certifying North Andover with the National Wildlife Federation. And that is easier said than done. There are currently only 70 towns in the country with the distinction, and Milton is the only town in Massachusetts so far.
To be accredited with NWF, a town must have a certain number of points earned through certain improvements. Points are largely earned by certifying homes and other properties as wildlife habitats, with gardening and other improvements. A town needs 450 points to be accredited, and so far North Andover has a third of that.
"The biggest challenge is going to be certifying 150 houses," McCarthy said. "We thought certifying five schools would be difficult, but we made a big push in june and planted 50 plus plants at all five public elementary schools. That was pretty huge. That’s where the energy is. People with kids, that generation looks to the future."
And that energy paid off.
"I'm extremely proud of all the schools that we planted at," McCarthy said. "The leadership and dedication of the teachers, administrators and especially parents has been truly inspiring and a serious driving force for the project as a whole."
And while creating a diverse bird-friendly oasis at a school may seem difficult, but even at Kittredge School -- which is also working on plans for a new gym -- the right plan made things fit perfectly."Kittredge is a great example of how a Habitat Garden can look at a school," McCarthy said. "At the moment there is an orange fence surrounding the garden to designate it as a protected area/planned planting while construction begins for the new gym. I am very excited to see how the school gardens look next year and especially in the growing season of 2015. They should be absolutely packed with native perennials and the shrubs will begin to fill out."
NAWT also spruced up the Parson Barnard House to accommodate wildlife.
So what exactly does it take to certify your house? Not much, actually. You can do it online at the NWF website. The form takes about 10 minutes to complete, and the fee is $20.
For your home to be eligible for NWF certification, your property must accommodate wildlife with a source of food, water and shelter.
"The basics is an oak tree and a birdbath," McCarthy said. "They attract birds and butterflies, and most houses in town have that... I would like to get 50 houses by the end of the year."
NAWT is now affiliated with the Friends of North Andover Trails and the North Andover Garden Club.
Tips on Creating a Habitat Garden
- Use native species plants. They will attract more birds, butterflies, etc., than foreign, invasive species. NAWT has more details about native plants and invasive plants.
- Foreign plants may look pretty and exotic, but many are invasive and they can actually harm other plants and trees nearby and throw your yard's ecosystem off.
- The right plants will provide plenty of food for wildlife.
- As for water, a birdbath is fine, so no need to start digging ponds and streams (although if you have the skill, feel free to do that).
- Shelter doesn't mean building animals a barn. The purpose of shelter is to keep the animals safe from predators and give them a place to have their young. Think simple: a dense shrub, thicket, rock pile, brush pile or birdhouse.
So what's next for NAWT? More planning. NAWT recently applied for donated trees from NWF to plant at local schools or other buildings.
"We also applied for CPA funding from the town which, if we receive it, we would use to create an exceptional 'demonstration garden' at the Stevens Estate," McCarthy said.