Volunteers revive pollinator garden at West Chester park

Cindy Meyer (foreground), OSU Extension, Butler County director and agriculture and natural resources educator, and Butler County Master Gardener Sandy Seiwert (background) discuss pollinators with local children as part of West Chester Twp. s WOLF (World of Land, Forest and Friends) program at Keehner Park. CONTRIBUTED

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Cindy Meyer (foreground), OSU Extension, Butler County director and agriculture and natural resources educator, and Butler County Master Gardener Sandy Seiwert (background) discuss pollinators with local children as part of West Chester Twp. s WOLF (World of Land, Forest and Friends) program at Keehner Park. CONTRIBUTED

Coneflower, milkweed, queen-of-the-prairie, partridge pea and another two dozen or so flowering plants are attracting pollinators at Keehner Park thanks to the work of local volunteer horticulturists.

An existing garden on the west side of the park, which is located at 7211 Barret Road, started coming back to life in July 2017 after the township entered into an agreement with the Ohio State University Extension, Butler County and its Master Gardener Volunteer Program to rehab the overgrown green space near the Cabin in the Clearing.

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“We have about 130 Master Gardener volunteers,” said Cindy Meyer, county director and agriculture and natural resources educator. “They are trained through an eight-week course, one day per week that we hold at the extension office, and they volunteer 50 hours back to the community.”

About 40 of those Butler County Master Gardeners have spent a year renovating and maintaining the large, once-forgotten garden bed. For its part, the township provides volunteers with resources like plants, mulch, and access to water and other supplies.

The goal of the cooperative project is not only to keep the 123-acre park looking beautiful, but also to encourage pollinators to thrive.

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Pollinators are animals that fertilize plants, resulting in seeds and the fruit surrounding the seeds.

Meyer said pollinators are important to people’s everyday lives and that we can thank a pollinator for one in every five bites we eat.

The plants for West Chester’s pollinator garden were strategically selected to help cultivate the local pollinator population. About 90 percent of the plants are native to this area, according to longtime BCMG volunteer Sandy Seiwert.

“We are going to bring in butterflies, hummingbirds, beetles, bats and any kind of bug that wants to come – we want our garden to move,” said Seiwert, one of three BCMG team leaders.

The garden at Keehner Park originally took shape in June 2012 as an Eagle Scout Project by Michael Catania of Troop 947. Seiwert landscaped the space and laid the initial brick edging, outlining the garden into the shape of a butterfly. The butterfly shape remains, but all the plants are new.

“Nothing had been done for probably five years, so it had some really big weeds in it,” Seiwert said. “We took out almost everything.”

Plant species in the ground today were brought in from places including the Cincinnati Zoo’s EcOhio Farm and Wetland, and from Miami University in Oxford, he said.

“Most of the Master Gardeners that are coming (to volunteer at Keehner Park) are Master Gardeners that live in this area, helping their own community,” said Seiwert, who has been with the program for about 10 years.

Volunteers meet at the pollinator garden on select Tuesday mornings. As part of its agreement with the township, the OSU Extension office also collaborates with parks staff to host educational seminars for residents in the community. BCMG has already been involved with the children’s WOLF Program at Keehner Park and has been an exhibitor at West Chester’s Farmers Market, which meets Saturdays on The Square.

No prior experience or skills are necessary to join the Master Gardener Volunteer Program. To learn more, call 513-887-3722 or visit butler.osu.edu.

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