Feed A Bee project brings pollinators to Roverud Park

Jordan Gerard/SGH Tysen Grinde uses a tool to make holes in the dirt. Flags were posted by the holes to signify a plant was growing there. Plants were placed in the holes on Friday, June 1.

With a grant, help from a local business and an army of volunteers, Roverud Park will see native flowers and grasses providing a pollinator habitat.

The city of Spring Grove received a $5,000 grant titled “Feed A Bee.” It’s a project that will establish a proper habitat for bees and other pollinators, Jessi Strinmoen of Shooting Star Native Seeds said.

“The community has determined that Roverud Park should offer an experience for trail users similar to that of the Norwegian Ridge Birding and Nature Trail, with a focus specifically on pollinator species,” she said. 

Pollinators, such as honeybees, have a crucial role in the Midwest where a majority of the nation’s food is produced. Bees take pollen and nectar in as food. A large challenge they face is finding enough food.

Honeybees pollinate fruits, nuts and vegetables, which contributes to a human’s healthy diet.

“Establishing a small pollinator habitat within the heart of the city will also help to establish a corridor that connects the surrounding habitat areas for pollinator species,” Strinmoen said. 

Houston County has over 2,000 established acres of pollinator habitat through the Conservation Reserve Program that converts agricultural land to pollinator habitat, she added.

Species and varieties such as milkweed, asters, switchgrass, wild rye, yellow coneflower, ox-eye sunflower and many more will bloom within three years. 

“It takes about three years to establish a prairie,” Strinmoen said. “Natives (flowers and grasses) generally put all of their energy into root development during the first year.”

The species will range from two to eight feet tall and have flowers that bloom from April to October.

Oats will most likely be seen first, which will help with erosion control. The city also installed a culvert system that directs storm water into the park.

The system has a mat of concrete bubbles that will slow the water as it runs through the park. Plants will hold the soil in place with their extensive root systems.

Once the prairie is established it takes little maintenance to manage it, though it takes a bit of legwork to get it going, Strinmoen said. 

“We’ll watch for invasive weed pressure and many need to address any problem areas,” she said. “We’ll be mowing on a regular schedule. A prairie does best with a controlled burn every few years, so we’re hoping we can tap into the fire department’s expertise once again.”

The park is also a popular outdoor classroom. Many students made the trek to the park with teachers Nolie Kapplinger (retired), Karen Tisthammer, or Jennifer Dregne over the years.

Signs will be established in the park and near the native prairie areas this fall. Visitors can identify species and look up more information using a QR code. 

Pollinator habitat signs will tell visitors about the purpose of native restoration.

The grant required an in-kind match, which is provided by Shooting Star Native Seeds for labor, seed and project management. It also took an army of volunteers to assist with planting, maintenance and mowing.

Before planting took place, the Spring Grove Fire Department conducted a controlled burn to dispose of noxious weeds.

Various classes from Spring Grove Public School helped out with planting, including the environmental science, agricultural, Makerspace and landscaping classes.

Thomas Trehus was also a volunteer for the project. Strinmoen thanked the groups for their hard work.

She also noted volunteers are still needed to help water plants in June. Contact Strinmoen at 498-3944 for more information.

To learn more about the Feed A Bee project, visit their website at www.feedabee.com.