June 19-June 25, 2017, is National Pollinator Week — a chance to learn about the importance of pollinators.
The Park Authority’s work with and for pollinators includes the preservation, management and restoration of natural habitat as well as the monitoring of wildlife that use the habitat. We’ve established demonstration sites and waystations that support pollinators, and we provide interpretation, education and outreach activities through our nature centers and parks. One example of that outreach is this blog.
Parks have diverse habitats that benefit pollinators, including about 18,000 acres of forest habitat. Those forests are in various stages of growth, which means they host varied groups of wildlife that depend on these changing, growing woods. Parks also have approximately 1,572 acres of non-forested, undeveloped habitats that include meadows and shrub land. That’s more variety for more species that rely on those types of habitats.
Parks that include areas with actively managed habitats include Huntley Meadows, Ellanor C. Lawrence, Riverbend, Poplar Ford, and Laurel Hill along with Elklick Natural Area Preserve and Marie Butler Levin Preserve. There are also dozens of sites that fall under the watchful eye of our Invasive Management Area program.
Habitat restoration projects have taken place recently at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park (ECLP), Old Colchester Park and Preserve, Huntley Meadows, Great Falls Nike Park, Kings Park West, Wakefield Run Stream Valley, Flatlick, Schneider Branch and Laurel Hill. Most notable among that list is the massive wetlands restoration at Huntley Meadows.
Pollinator demonstration sites have been established at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park, Hidden Oaks Nature Center, Hidden Pond Nature Center, Huntley Meadows Park, Riverbend Park, Green Spring Gardens, and at the John C. and Margaret K. White Horticultural Park. Many sites host waystations, including Hidden Oaks Nature Center, the Packard Center, Mason District Park and ECLP.
Hidden Oaks Nature Center has led the way in a monarch butterfly tagging and population monitoring program. Monarch populations have been declining because of a loss of habitat, and these efforts will help Fairfax County do its part in reversing that loss. Tagging has been taking place since 1996, and three to nine tagging sessions are held annually. Public involvement in those is welcome. Green Spring Gardens and some libraries and schools have joined that effort. We’ve been raising and releasing monarchs since 2005 in partnership with Monarch Watch and volunteers. Parks also have helped Fairfax County Public Schools develop a curriculum for raising monarch butterflies.
Dozens of pollinator interpretation classes are hosted by Park Authority parks for people from preschool to adult. Your local nature center will have information about them. Other education efforts revolve around school field trips. Pollination and pollinators are part of the Virginia standards of learning for second through fourth grades, and those units are presented at nature centers. Among the topics covered are insects, ecosystems, and plants.
Dozens of stewardship brochures that help county residents understand aspects of nature are available at parks and other county offices. They’re also online. Brochures specific to pollination include those titled Pollen, Native Backyard Plants, and Bees.
If you want more information about Park Authority efforts to protect pollinators and all they do for us, you’ll find it on our natural resources web pages.
Author David Ochs is the Manager of Stewardship Communications for the Resource Management Division of the Fairfax County Park Authority.
Don’t forget the pollinator garden at Frying Pan Farm Park, which helps to tell the story of how important pollinators are to agriculture. The garden is a project sponsored and maintained by Fairfax Master Naturalists, with support from the Potowmack chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society, Earth Sangha, and FCPA. School groups, Girl Scouts, and Frying Pan campers have all benefited from interpretive programs at the garden.