Backers aflutter over plan for pollinator park

A park for butterflies and bees? The idea has some folks from Columbus buzzing.

The Pleasant Grove area on the east side of Columbus is being suggested as site for a pollinator park.

Andy Ertel, executive director of the Jennings County Soil and Water Conservation District, will discuss the benefits of pollinator parks and how that county’s efforts have grown during a 5:30 p.m. Thursday meeting in the Dorel Juvenile Group meeting room, 2525 State St.

The proposal for Columbus is modeled off pollinator parks in Jennings County, which started its efforts in July 2015 by planting native flowers and grasses at schools, parks and its industrial park, Ertel said.

“The idea is to have different plants blooming from April until November,” he said.

The idea for Columbus, inspired by next year’s 10-year anniversary of the 2008 flood, is being proposed for five acres of land in the Pleasant Grove area, said Eric Riddle, associate manager of marketing and product development for Dorel.

Riddle said the flood resulted in the loss of 40 properties that were later purchased by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Riddle hopes to turn the green space into a pollinator park after learning about Ertel’s work in Jennings County.

The space could be used by individuals at Foundation for Youth and Cummins Technical Center, both located nearby, Riddle said.

An application will have to be submitted to the city-county planning department, then would also go before FEMA for approval, said Riddle, who hopes it will be approved next year.

Pollinator parks have grown in popularity, Ertel said.

Jennings County has received different sources of funding, including from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Clean Water Indiana, and from native-plant sales, he said.

“Without these bees and pollinators, we would have a huge decline in our produce,” Ertel said. “It’s all education, but we need to provide habitat for these pollinators.”

Six acres of North Vernon’s 60-acre Tripton Park also has been dedicated as a pollinator space, while all of the county’s elementary schools also have pollinator gardens at their sites. In addition, Ertel said Jennings officials have also worked to plant native flowers near creeks.

Ertel said another benefit is to support the migration of monarch butterflies.

Once the pollinator parks are developed, they typically require maintenance every three years, he said.

Homeowners also can get in on the act by planting purple cone flowers, blue stem grasses and common milkweeds.

“There’s such a variety of native flowers,” he said. “You can create your own little colorful area.”

If you go

What: Meeting about pollinator parks

When: 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Dorel Juvenile Group meeting room, 2525 State St., Columbus

Author photo
Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com