The Miami County Park District’s newest property with frontage on the Stillwater River will be converted to pollinator habitat and used for an outdoor learning lab.
The park district, using grant dollars, purchased the property located off Kessler-Frederick Road south of Ohio 55 near West Milton this year. The county park commissioners voted in July to name the property Union Springs.
Scott Myers, park district executive director, said the district was approached by the owner about possible interest in obtaining and using the property.
A grant for $215,688 from the Clean Ohio Funds was sought and approved to purchase the land.
“There are numerous bees housed on the property that a volunteer maintained for the previous owner. She continues to maintain them there and we are maintaining the property as a pollinator habitat,” Myers said.
The district will maintain Stillwater River frontage for river protection and river access, he said.
In addition to the Clean Ohio Funds, the park district secured a $4,000 grant for habitat restoration from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, said Amanda Smith, park district marketing administrator.
Union Springs won’t be open to the general public because of its size, although it will be used for public programming on pollinator education, Smith said. The Stillwater River access will be used for some of the district’s canoe programming but there will not be any parking.
The property is home to almost 40 honeybees hives so the park district is converting the property’s fields into pollinator habitat.
Existing alfalfa fields will serve pollinators for part of the year but the district is planting the property with a variety of items that also bloom in late summer and fall.
Donnie Knight of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Partners for Fish and Wildlife program said the organization plans an ongoing effort/partnership with the park district.
Under a cooperative agreement, the plan is to restore, create and enhance habitat.
The area will be sprayed to control weeds and planted to a diverse mix of native grasses and wildflowers, according to the Fish and Wildlife Services.
“This habitat will provide critical host and nectar plants for species such as the Monarch Butterfly and native bees. The habitat will also provide nesting and brood rearing habitat for migratory grassland birds,” Knight wrote. “The conversion of cropland acres to this habitat will also benefit species and water quality in the Stillwater River.”
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