July 30, 2022 Project Highlight: Pioneer Creek Park Native Plant Garden There are thousands of local parks all over Minnesota, many with amenities like ball fields, playgrounds, basketball courts, and horseshoes. Parks are parks, right? Well, not so fast. Pioneer Park in Independence, Minnesota, is unique in that it is home to an outstanding native plant demonstration garden. How did that native plant garden come to be? Well, an Eagle Scout named Christian Eichers decided to better his community by doing an important project that would benefit thousands and thousands of park patrons. He added species tags to the plants and information about them to a nearby kiosk. Christian’s display also touches on native plant community benefits like wildlife habitat, erosion control, filtering pollutants, carbon sequestration, and more. In addition to the educational value, his project creates a park oasis for pollinators and songbirds. Christian teamed up with Natural Shore staff to create the demo garden. We first talked about the importance of site preparation, proper plant selection, and routine maintenance. From there, he took off and did a lot of work clearing the planting area, setting up the signage, planting the plants, and then weeding the area to make sure it stayed beautiful. The plants provided by Natural Shore include: Prairie blazing star, Joe pye weed, boneset, sneezeweed, ironweed, bergamot, meadow blazing star, green bulrush, swamp milkweed, black eyed Susan, blue vervain, blue flag iris, cardinal flower, Canada anemone, culver’s root, purple coneflower, and more can all be found in this small but diverse restoration. “My favorite native plant would have to be the cardinal flower”, says Christian. After just one season the garden has taken off and started attracting a lot of attention from both pollinators and park visitors. It is a wonderful demonstration garden that helps promote native plants and inspires others to think about natural areas on their properties. Christian said, “I have only received good feedback from the garden! No one has had anything bad to say about it, which I’m glad to hear. Then, it means I did a good job! I have seen many bees and monarch caterpillars and butterflies enjoying the garden, as well as other harmless insects who don’t damage the plants. They seemed to find it very quickly.” Would Christian recommend a project like this in other communities? “Yes, but they need to make sure what they are getting themselves into.” He learned that ecological restoration is not a “one and done” type of a project. Monitoring and maintenance is critical for natural areas establishment. “I think it would be great! We need more native flowers, which will help the pollinator population grow as well as help keep the butterfly population up too.” If you have questions or are interested in adding native plants to your community open spaces, we can help! Send our Greenhouse Manager Jill an email and she can assist you to get started on your project. We are happy to provide suggestions on what would work best for your particular area. We are here to help you accomplish amazing ecological restorations for your community. Thank you Christian for all your hard work in creating a beautiful and educational native plant restoration for your Eagle Scout project. Well done!