Union County’s Cedar Brook Park in Plainfield celebrated Independence Day in its own fashion, with a natural display of colorful native flowers around the shoreline of Cedar Brook Lake.

The flowering plants and shrubs are part of a restoration project aimed at improving wildlife habitats in County parks.

“We have been restoring landscapes and gardens in Union County parks to help sustain butterflies, birds and other valuable pollinators,” said Freeholder Chairman Sergio Granados. “Much of the effort has been undertaken with the assistance of volunteers, and their hard work has really made a big difference.”

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“Everyone can help preserve and protect valuable pollinators in our environment by adding native plants to their yard or garden,” added Granados. “Native plants are also drought-hardy and require less maintenance than other varieties.”

Union County’s Plant This, Not That guide offers simple suggestions for incorporating colorful native species in yards and gardens. The guide was originally developed for Union County by a local Girl Scout as a volunteer project. Free downloads are available at ucnj.org/parks-recreation.

The pollinator projects in County parks include the restoration of native species along lakeshores in Echo Lake Park in Mountainside and Warinanco Park in Roselle, as well as Cedar Brook. Volunteers with the County’s Adopt-a-Park program continue to maintain these areas by periodically removing invasive species, picking up litter, and clearing debris.

Among other recent projects is a new butterfly meadow near the Trailside Nature and Science Center at the Watchung Reservation in Mountainside in partnership with a local Girl Scout and other volunteers. A new wildflower meadow has also been established around the dam at Lake Surprise in the Watchung Reservation.

Another pollinator-friendly location is the historic Shakespeare Garden in Cedar Brook Park, which is tended by volunteers with the Plainfield Garden Club.

The Chatfield Garden in Warinanco Park underwent a major transformation several years ago. Formerly a high maintenance display of tulips, it now consists of pollinator-friendly beds of perennial flowering plants and shrubs. The new garden was designed by a volunteer and is periodically tended by Adopt-a-Park volunteers.

The Union County’s Kids Dig In and UC Means Green garden grant programs also encourage school and community gardens to include pollinator-friendly flowering plants along with vegetables.

“Through these two grant programs, volunteer gardeners have populated Union County with dozens of small scale habitats that attract pollinators,” said Granados. “Pollinators help our gardeners increase their harvest, too.”

Pollinator conservation supports the goals of Chairman Granados’s Moving Union County Forward “Plant a Seed” initiative for building participation in environmental education and stewardship.

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

Union County residents interested in joining the Rutgers Master Gardeners and Master Tree Stewards volunteer programs can sign up to attend the fall 2018 training sessions. For more information visit ucnj.org/rce or call the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County at its offices in Westfield, 908-654-9854.

For quick links to all Union County environmental programs and activities visit ucnj.org/green-connection.