BRIDGEWATER, NJ - With a plan for a "Bee for Bridgewater Project" at Hillside Intermediate School, the Bridgewater Township Council approved a resolution for an agreement between the township and New Jersey American Water for a 2017 environmental grant.
The grant is for $6,500 for the purpose of funding a native bee habitat and display garden.
The purpose, according to Health and Human Services head Chris Poulsen, is to attract native bees to the meadow area near Hillside for creating a habitat there in areas monitored by the Roots and Shoots program at the school.
“We are not introducing any new bees to the area,” he said. “We have full approval from Hillside School to include them in the project area.”
Councilman Matthew Moench questioned whether there is any concern about having this habitat near a school where there might be students with bee allergies.
Poulsen said that anyone with allergies should already be alert to the situation, and there is information on file with nurses about that.
“In the educational component of the grant, we will include information on bee allergies, participate in an allergy awareness program and incorporate that too to make everyone aware of the potential impact,” he said.
Township administrator James Naples said the project is intended to attract native bees as opposed to honeybees.
“They tend to be solitary and rarely sting,” he said.
Councilman Filipe Pedroso said he is sympathetic to the bee issue, and understands the importance of bees in the environment and to pollination. But, he said, he is concerned about placing this at a school when they are not sure how aware parents are to the situation.
“I support this 100 percent, but I can’t make a decision for me, I have to make it for what people feel,” he said. “I don’t know how the parents of the kids who go to the school will feel about it, and I don’t know if there is enough public information.”
“I am concerned about how parents are going to feel once they become aware of the fact that we are going to be having this bee program at the school,” he added.
Poulsen said they are not attracting hive creators, and they will be working with the established Roots and Shoots program.
“It will be in the meadow area, away from doors into the schools and the walking trails,” he said.
“You’re going to see grown nesting bees, native ones that live in that capacity or may use a tree for habitation,” he added. “We’re actually putting this into an area where we know they will be as opposed to having them ground nesting in an area where they are not readily seen.”
Poulsen said they are going to be meeting with Hillside teacher Katrina Macht, who runs the Roots and Shoots program, to determine the best locations and make it work.
Pedroso said he does support the grant, but would like to include a condition that if the Hillside location is not approved, the issue will come back to the council for discussion.
The resolution was approved unanimously with that condition.