Pollinator garden to provide safe space for the birds, the bees and the butterflies
MILLERTON — Thanks to the efforts of some very determined and energetic volunteers, the Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) of the town of North East, Dr. Kristie Schmidt and a host of others, the village of Millerton will soon be blessed with a new community pollinator garden on Century Boulevard.
CAC member Mary Lynn Kalogeras brainstormed the idea after attending several of local farmers markets with CAC Chairwoman Dianne Engleke to share information about pollinators, and the desperate situation bees are facing right now. But, with the coming of the coronavirus pandemic, Kalogeras said her kids were going to “kill her” if the 77 year old kept going out to educate people in the midst of a health crisis — putting herself at risk — prompting her to come up with another idea. The solution? To plant the town’s own volunteer pollinator garden.
The idea was further promoted when Schmidt agreed to donate the front lawn of her Century Boulevard office for the project for a garden plot that measures 20 feet by 30 feet. It’s an ideal location, situated right next to the Millerton Post Office and the North East Town Hall.
“I thought, wouldn’t it be great to have a garden in the village, where people could walk down and learn [about pollination],” said Kalogeras, who added there should be more than 50 native plants donated to the garden by the time it’s finished. “It will be gorgeous when it’s done. It will be full of flowers… The bees we’re trying to attract are solitary bees, about as big as your pinky nail. They’re native. Honey bees are not native to this country.”
And that’s key to the new community garden, which focuses on native plants as well as native bees, butterflies, caterpillars and birds. Kalogeras said in addition to getting the planting materials donated, including mulch and compost from places like McEnroe Organic Farm and Agway in Millerton, other local businesses have donated supplies. She hopes more will do so. She’s also hoping informational signs will be donated, so they can be posted throughout the garden to educate visitors about the role pollinators play in the food supply chain — something she’s been thinking an awful lot about these days.
“We don’t have a food source without pollination, in terms of vegetables and fruits,” she said, crediting bees, “and they’re involved in wheat production and oats and all the grains, too. That’s one reason why people are so frantic about the loss of honeybees, which is obvious. What is not obvious, is you put up parking lots in spaces, covered by cement, they risk being lost. They’ve established these long relationships with native plants, which is what butterflies like; it’s what bees like, what birds like, and that’s important.”
North East town Supervisor Chris Kennan commended Kalogeras and her initiative. She presented the project to the Town Board at its Zoom meeting on Thursday, May 14.
“I think it’s wonderful and the goal is really that it should be educational, that’s why it is being done there, right next to the post office, so people can understand better the role of pollinators to our local environment,” said Kennan. “It is a project of the [town] CAC, but it’s in the village, so it’s a great location.”
The supervisor added that “Councilwoman Lana Morrison volunteered to help with it,” and depending on how many others volunteer, the work should finish soon, especially as “landscaping and garden work have been permitted by the state, even up to now, to some degree, and there will be more of that permitted as we move into phase one of the reopening.”
On Thursday, May 21, Kalogeras noted that in addition to Morrison, Deputy Supervisor Ralph Fedele also volunteered. The two Town Board members were out that day, doing the grueling work of removing sod and carting it away — then covering the ground with compost. For herself, Morrison and the 88 year old Fedele, she said it was “hard work,” but done fairly smoothly.
“It’s been rough, but I think once you get something started, people are used to doing things for the town,” she said. “This will hopefully get everybody started… Planting is the fun part.”
It seems that it has encouraged others. There have been so many people stopping by to ask about the project and offer their help, in fact, that Kalogeras is no longer soliciting volunteers, though she’s not turning them down, either. She said the town has reminded her that all volunteers must respect social distancing guidelines while working in the garden, which also lessens the number of people who can work at one time.
Kalogeras said there’s still time to volunteer, though, especially as there has been some delay in getting the native plants, which has postponed the original planting schedule. To find out about volunteering, email Kalogeras at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Millerton’s pollinator garden, go to https://millertonnewyork.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/PollinatorGarden.... And to read more about the joy of gardening in the Tri-State Region, pick up this year’s Towns & Villages special supplement, published by The Lakeville Journal Co. on May 21, 2020.