Bees, butterflies, birds and other pollinators have a new home in Union County’s Watchung Reservation, where an open field was recently replanted with native wildflowers and transformed into a flourishing habitat.

The new pollinator meadow is located along a paved access road that runs between the western corner of the Loop and the bottom of the parking lot at the Trailside Nature and Science Center in Mountainside.

“The Watchung Reservation fulfills an invaluable nature conservation role in our area, and it is very gratifying to see how native species respond when their habitat is improved,” said Freeholder Vice Chairman Bette Jane Kowalski, who chairs the Freeholder Board’s Parks, Public Works and Facilities Committee. “On behalf of the Freeholder Board, I’d like to thank the volunteers who helped bring new life to the meadow. Their hard work will be enjoyed by countless visitors in the years to come.”

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The rehabilitation of the meadow was undertaken as a Gold Award project by a local Girl Scout, who organized volunteers to reseed the ground and plant more than 450 milkweed starts. The project received a grant from Monsanto and a donation of $1,200 for new seeds from the non-profit Trailside Museum Association.

The Union County Department of Parks and Recreation prepared the ground and the Mountainside Fire Department contributed personnel and equipment to provide water, helping to ensure a successful start for the new plantings.

The meadow now includes many varieties of native wildflowers including monarda or bee balm, spotted St. John’s wort, black-eyed Susan, coreopsis, blue vervain, swamp and common milkweed, and butterfly weed. A green fringed orchid also made an appearance this year.

Native plants are crucial to the survival of spicebush and tiger swallowtail butterflies, monarch butterflies, hummingbird moths, skippers, silver spotted butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies and many other pollinators as well as birds and bees.

Union County residents can help improve pollinator habitats in their own yards by planting hardy, low maintenance native plants.

Union County’s free Plant This, Not That guide provides simple suggestions for incorporating colorful native species that attract pollinators, while also cutting down on water bills and other yard care expenses. Recently revised and expanded by County staff, the guide is available for view or download at ucnj.org/parks-recreation.

The Trailside Museum Association is a volunteer organization that supports the environmental education mission of Trailside, which was established in the 1940’s as the first local nature museum in New Jersey. To contribute or join, visit ucnj.org/parks-recreation.

To find out more about volunteering in County Parks, visit Adopt-a-Park at ucnj.org/parks-recreation or call 908-789-3683. Any individual or group may participate in Adopt-a-Park.

For quick links to all Union County environmental programs and activities, visit The Green Connection at ucnj.org/green-connection.

For all Union County programs and services visit ucnj.org, call the Public Info Line, 877-424-1234, email info@ucnj.org or use the online Contact Form.

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