Historic Sacred Heart Church Commemorates Successful Green Parking Lot Installation

Parish partnered with TNC in 2019 to install a state-of-the-art green parking lot to manage stormwater with green spaces and native plants

A group of people look at an informative sign on a sunny day at Sacred Heart Church in Detroit, Michigan.
Celebrating Sacred Heart Informative signs were installed at Sacred Heart to educate visitors about the project. © Fauna Creative

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The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Sacred Heart Church parishioners today marked the culmination of a three-year project to turn the parish’s puddle-riddled parking lot into a pollinator’s paradise complete with native plants and green spaces. The project represents one of the largest faith-based, green stormwater infrastructure improvements in the city of Detroit, serving as an example of how the beauty of nature can help manage stormwater in a cost-effective manner.

Sacred Heart Church Pastor Fr. Norman P. Thomas blessed the gardens during a dedication ceremony following the 5 p.m. mass.

“I want to thank The Nature Conservancy for partnering with us on this project and for helping us turn our parking lot into a haven for pollinators and for providing our parishioners and our community with a place to appreciate nature,” Fr. Thomas said. “This unique project created a natural way to absorb stormwater runoff without further stressing the city’s water infrastructure.”

For the last three years, TNC has managed the project but has now handed over those duties to the Sacred Heart Garden Club. The club is made up of parishioners and community leaders who are passionate about incorporating nature, flowers and greenery onto church grounds. 

“Nature-based green stormwater infrastructure, like what we installed at Sacred Heart Church, is essential to help cities reduce local flooding and improve water quality in local waterways,” said Valerie Strassberg, director of Urban Water Infrastructure for The Nature Conservancy. “These features serve as a living testament of the power and efficiency of nature-based solutions to innovatively manage run-off while building a more resilient and healthier ecosystem for Detroiters.” 

Strassberg previously served as TNC in Michigan’s Detroit Program Director and oversaw the installation at Sacred Heart Church in 2019. The project was completed at no cost to the parish.

“I want to thank our generous donors who believe in using nature-based solutions to solve stormwater runoff issues in Detroit and cities across Michigan for providing funding for this important project,” said Helen Taylor, state director for The Nature Conservancy in Michigan. “The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, in particular, was quick to take the lead on supporting this project, and inspired others to do the same. Because of their generosity, Sacred Heart Church now has a beautiful way to manage stormwater in a manner that benefits nature and people.”

Sacred Heart Church is home to more than 3,000 parishioners who represent a diverse range of communities throughout Detroit and surrounding suburbs.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in more than 70 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on Twitter.