A resident group has been working as hard as bees to create pollinator gardens along the heritage trail.
Protect Our Pollinators, a group of five NOTL women wanting to save pollinating insects like bees and butterflies, have been busy planting trees and preparing new pollinator gardens along the Upper Canada Heritage Trail between John and Paffard streets.
“It’s going to be a beautiful thing,” said Sandra Ozkur, a volunteer with Protect our Pollinators as well as the communications coordinator for Niagara Beeway.
“Our intention is to have it, in a couple of years, be full of blossoms and butterflies and bees,” she added.
The purpose of this project is to educate the public on the importance of pollinating insects, renaturalize the trail and provide a place where bees, moths, hummingbirds and butterflies can flourish.
It “helps to bring awareness regarding the decline of pollinating insects,” said Marah Minor, the town’s community engagement and communications co-ordinator.
A few weeks ago the group, with permission from the town and the Upper Canada Heritage Trail committee, did a major cleanup on the trail by tearing out a bunch of wild vines.
Protect our Pollinators is collaborating on the project with town staff, volunteers from the heritage trail committee and town council.
The group also had 15 pollinator trees planted — this included a mix of serviceberries, cherry and eastern redbud trees.
A basswood tree was also planted and is dedicated to the Goettler Family Foundation, who donated the funds for the pollinator project to help renaturalize the trail and to help with educational signage.
The trees will be a part of one big pollinator garden, said Ozkur
The group also laid down organic hay where some of the pollinator beds will be.
“What we’re doing here is trying to smother out these invasive species,” she said.
The hay is an environmentally safe way to not only get rid of weeds and invasive plants without the use of chemicals, but also to provide compost and hold moisture in the soil which allows the pollinator plants to grow.
Some invasive plants found along the heritage trail include goutweed, Manitoba maples and English ivy.
Though the group’s work will be ongoing, their goal is to have the three pollinator beds finished by the end of the month, said Klara Young-Chin, a member of Protect Our Pollinators and Friends of One Mile Creek.
Other members of the Protect Our Pollinators group include Janet Trodgon, Betty Knight and Vicky Downes.
Young-Chin’s house backs onto the heritage trail. She’s been involved with the Friends of One Mile Creek since 2003 and in 2010 helped plant 85 native trees along the pathway.
“Most of the native trees that you see here have been planted by the Friends of One Mile Creek,” she said, pointing around to the large tulip trees along the trail.
Soon the group will be adding shrubs, grasses and flowers to the new pollinator beds which will create a full ecosystem.
Ozkur said it’ll take about three years to properly establish the garden.
She believes it’ll also increase the bird population in the area since there will be more caterpillars — more caterpillars mean more food for birds.
A baby chickadee, for example, will stay in the nest for up to 16 days and needs about 500 caterpillars a day — which means it eats upwards of 8,000 caterpillars in a span of just over two weeks.
Once the gardens are complete, the trail will be a pollinator corridor, said Young-Chin.
She believes corridors are important because of the lack of natural areas in town due to urbanization.
“So you want to have a smooth corridor, where they (insects) can have their stopovers and feed on nectar and pollen,” said Young-Chin.
All of the work along the heritage trail is being done by volunteers, said Ozkur.
“The town assumes that this is a naturalized area and does not maintain this area,” she said.
The town does mow the lawn, and will continue to water the plants until they become established, said Young-Chin.
Young-Chin encourages residents to think about starting their own pollinator garden in their yards — no size is too small.
In fact, many years ago, she tore up the grass in her front yard and made her own pollinator garden.
She explained that to make one, people should include plants that bloom in the spring, such as butterfly milkweed, wild columbine, and foxglove, plants that bloom in the summer, such as black-eyed Susans, and flowers that bloom in the fall, such as asters.
This is what is called a continuous bloom: it gives pollinators a constant source of nutritious food, no matter the season, said Ozkur.
Once everything is completed, the group hopes to have a grand opening to show the community what they’ve been working on.