A multi-age civic partnership is transforming a roadside parcel of County parkland into a lush, natural habitat for the endangered Monarch butterfly and many other valuable pollinators including butterflies, bees and birds.

“This new meadow will serve as a valuable teaching tool for the thousands of children and adults who visit Trailside every year,” said Chairman Bruce H. Bergen. "It represents the work of many civic stakeholders, and on behalf of the Freeholder Board I would especially like to thank the Trailside Museum Association for their generous contribution.”

The new pollinator meadow is located in Union County’s Watchung Reservation, along the service road by the Trailside Nature and Science Center at 251 New Providence Road in Mountainside.

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Preliminary work on the meadow took place last month, when Girl Scouts from Mountainside and Westfield planted milkweed seedlings. The ground was mowed and prepared for planting by personnel from the Union County Department of Parks and Recreation.

After a three-day period of frost this winter, the area will be seeded with additional native wildflowers and grasses that attract pollinators including coreopsis, Joe Pye Weed, wild bergamot, tall white beardtongue, New England aster, switch grass, little bluestem, Indian grass, big-leaf mountain mint and New York Ironwood.

The seeds and milkweed seedlings were provided through a grant of $1,250 from the Trailside Museum Association, a volunteer organization that supports Trailside with donations of volunteer time as well as financial assistance for projects in and around the facility. The seeds were purchased from the New Jersey nursery Toadshade Wildflower Farm.

The Borough of Mountainside has also played a role in the project. The Mountainside Fire Department helped the Girl Scouts get their seedlings off to a good start by bringing water to the meadow.

Common milkweed, swamp milkweed and butterfly weed are the only food that monarch butterfly caterpillars eat.  In recent years, monarch butterfly populations have decreased dramatically due to habitat loss and food availability.

“The new meadow enables Union County to play a role in a global effort to conserve our pollinator population,” said Bergen. “We really can make a difference, one meadow at a time.”

The new Trailside pollinator meadow is the latest in a series of habitats recently established in Union County parks. They are all fully accessible to the public and they provide colorful opportunities for photography enthusiasts.

These include the existing Butterfly Garden adjacent to Trailside, and the wildflower meadow, shoreline plantings and Chatfield Garden at Warinanco Park in Roselle. The Chatfield Garden, originally kept as a tulip bed, was converted to a pollinator-friendly perennial garden several years ago.

Echo Lake Park in Mountainside features pollinator-friendly shoreline plantings, and Cedar Brook Park in Plainfield has shoreline plantings and the historic Shakespeare Garden, which attracts many pollinators.

The new Union County Means Green Community Garden Grants program has also provided additional support for pollinators in local neighborhoods. The garden grant program is part of Chairman Bergen’s “Union County Means Green” 2016 initiatives. It covers the establishment of pollinator plots in community gardens.

One such garden, the new Scotch Plains-Fanwood Community Garden, became home to Monarch caterpillars in its very first season. The garden is located on a formerly barren parcel of land behind the historic Frazee House, off Raritan Road in Scotch Plains.

Individuals and groups are welcome to volunteer in Union County parks by joining Adopt-a-Park and its companion program, Adopt-a-Trail. The two programs are run by the Union County Department of Parks and Recreation, providing hundreds of volunteer opportunities annually.

For more information call 908-789-3683 or visit ucnj.org/adopt-a-park.

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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