Monongahela National Forest Planting Pollinator Gardens
Kendra Sultzer of AmeriCorps talked to me on a recent windy day about her project to plant pollinator gardens in the Marlinton District of the Monongahela National Forest.
“We have a bunch of projects at AmeriCorps that we are given, and we kind of decide which of those we want to do” said Kendra. “Because there’s a lot that we could be doing that everyone else doesn’t get the time that you can in the Forest Service. So one of the ones that was suggested was putting in pollinator gardens, and my boss was pretty excited about that –and I was too, because I haven’t done much gardening or anything s0 it was kind of a learning experience.”
Why install pollinator gardens?
“The idea is to put in pollinator gardens around areas of the Forest like recreation areas or administrative sites that might need mowing” said Kendra. “Places that are just grassy that mowing could be reduced if we put in pollinator gardens. Their idea is to attract pollinators.”
Kendra points out that the numbers of pollinators has been decreasing due to habitat degradation. She talks about how certain plants and flowers attract specific pollinators. Kendra.
“We are to attract a variety of stuff, like we are planting a bunch of milkweed which is attractive to Monarch Butterflies” Kendra says. “So butterflies, bees, birds, bats, whatever, I am planting a variety of flowers because certain species like certain colors. They are attracted to certain colors and certain shapes of flowers so we can get as many pollinators as possible.
Some of the plants they are putting in the gardens are –Coreopsis Lanceolata, Wild Senna, Wild Colombine, two different kinds of Milkweed, Blue Lobelia, Black Berry and grasses for over-wintering birds.
Kendra explains where the gardens will be located.
“One’s going to be at the Marlinton Ranger Office, right around the office” said Kendra. “At the Marlinton Office I’m going to have the 4H kids come out and help plant for an evening. Another one is to be at the White Sulphur Springs Office, the White Sulphur Office I am going to have 4th and 5th graders come out in a morning and help me plant. And another site I am looking at is Summit Lake – right around the lake. And then probably some other areas too, but we are not going to have seed to plant all of them.”
I asked Kendra how large would the gardens be. Kendra
“Most of them are pretty small” Kendra said. “I’m only looking to do three acres total, like our offices are only like .41 acres – they are pretty small.”
It should be noted that since this interview was recorded, the gardens have been planted, and we should be only waiting for the new blooms to attract the pollinators by the end of the summer.
I asked Kendra about AmeriCorps. She said she graduated from college in 2014 but found she needed experience so she signed up and served at a State Park in Maryland and enjoyed it so much she signed up again to work for the National Park Service here in West Virginia. Does she like it?
“I like it a lot and I feel like I am learning a lot too” said Kendra. “It’s a good thing to get experience because I found right out of college everyone wants you to have experience, but it’s difficult to get experience without getting a job so it’s kind of that ‘catch 22’. And AmeriCorps is nice because it is good for the forest Service because they are not paying us anything so we get experience –they get work done. Technically you are a volunteer and you get like a stipend but the real incentive is that when you are done you get a $5,400.00 education award so you can use that to pay back loans or take training or use for Grad School or something.”