A new protected area is being developed near Lock 12 on North Brooksvale Road. Situated adjacent to the lock parking lot, a Cheshire Pollinator Pathway is under development and passersby may notice heavy equipment working the site.
Crews from Winthrop Construction were at the site on June 7, along with landscape designer Kathy Connolly, and Cheshire Pollinator Pathway volunteers to oversee the start of the work.
“The crew did a great job. We are very excited to get the project moving forward,” said Cheshire Pollinator Pathway’s Assistant Director Joanna deBear.
The project got underway after funds were raised through Sustainable CT’s Community Match Fund.
“We met and exceeded our goal,” said Pam Roach, who initiated the fundraising in her position as director of grants for the 501(c)(3) Coalition for a Sustainable Cheshire.
“In order to do a project of this scale, we had to raise a lot of money,” Roach said.
Volunteers were instrumental in getting the word out about the fundraiser. Cheshire’s Nancy Fede was a key fundraising volunteer. “I was thrilled and relieved that we met and exceeded the goal of the fundraiser to secure the matching grant from Sustainable CT,” Fede said.
“We could not have done this without the tireless efforts of our dedicated volunteers,” said Roach.
Fundraising efforts brought in just over $8,000. Sustainable CT then matched the donations dollar for dollar, said Roach. The project pulled in approximately $16,000. The work on the site got underway almost immediately.
“Long before the fundraiser, we had already presented before Inland Wetlands, worked with town officials, two different soil scientists, and principles of the Southwest Conservation District. So, we were prepared,” deBear said, adding, “We realize that this is a long-game project.”
Just like the original garden across the street on North Brooksvale, the work on this new area will need about a year of prep to get it ready. The group is utilizing a technique called smothering, also known as lasagna layering, using cardboard and wood chips.
No pesticides are used. The area contains copious amounts of porcelain berry, mugwort, multiflora rosa and other invasives. Invasive plants are harmful to local ecosystems since they leaf out earlier and spread quickly to overwhelm native plants. Native plants, with their longer and denser root systems, are best at erosion control, especially along watercourses. Some invasive plants can change the chemical makeup of the soil. Some have allelopathic properties, which make it difficult for other plants to establish or exist near them.
The Cheshire Pollinator Pathway is a part of the larger, statewide Pollinator-Pathway.org. The umbrella group began as a response to the critical worldwide insect apocalypse. Pollinator numbers have been decimated, due to habitat fragmentation, pesticide use, and the lack of native plants.
Pollinators at risk include lepidoptera, bumblebees, solitary bees, moths, fireflies, dragonflies, and others. The food web is also in peril. Without native “straight-species” plants, there are not enough insects that bats need in their diet, and there are not enough caterpillars to feed baby birds, whose sole diet comes from soft caterpillars.
The Pollinator Pathway began in 2016, with Donna Merrill, as one way to create waystations of native plantings. Pollinator Pathway principles Louise Washer and Mary Ellen LeMay assisted in bringing the grassroots movement to its current status. Pollinator Pathways can be found in almost every Connecticut town and the movement has extended into New York, Vermont, and Massachusetts.
In Cheshire, the game plan for planting the Lock 12 garden will be different than that of the original garden, across the street, which is mainly flowers. The Lock 12 site will depend heavily on shrubs and trees, including oak, a keystone species for hundreds of pollinators, as well as shrubs that are pollinator powerhouses, including elderberry, serviceberry, and sweet fern.
The Cheshire Pollinator Pathway welcomes volunteers and has weekly garden work hours most Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings.
To find out how you can support the grassroots group, go to Sustainablecheshire.org or follow the Cheshire Pollinator Pathway on social media.