Birds and bees will soon find a haven at Staunton River State Park in Scottsburg.
The park plans to add two large pollinator gardens in the late summer or early fall to attract pollinators such as bees, butterflies, birds, bats and moths.
Keep Virginia Beautiful, a Richmond-based nonprofit organization, announced on Thursday its award of a $750 grant to Staunton River State Park for the pollinator gardens.
Park manager Cameron Lipscomb shared that the pollinator gardens would add to natural habitat of the honeybees that already have a home at the state park. The park placed two honeybee hives in the park two years ago.
Local beekeeper Don Britt takes care of the hives and assists the park with related educational programs.
“The plants in the garden will also provide an extra habitat and food source for the bees,” Lipscomb said. “The garden also will be aesthetically pleasing to our guests.”
Some of the plants that the park plans to include in the pollinator gardens are native sunflowers, native milkweed, butterfly weed, black-eyed Susans and joe pye weed. Lipscomb explained the addition of the pollinator gardens would improve the ecosystem overall and have an “overarching effect” on the food chain by providing food sources for the bees while at the same time attracting animals that feed on the pollinators.
“Pollinators are one of the main reasons that we have certain food sources today — fruits and vegetables,” Lipscomb commented.
The grant award announcement for the pollinator gardens came at an appropriate time, in conjunction with National Pollinator Week, which is June 22-28.
Pollination by honeybees produces nearly $20 billion worth of products each year in the United States alone, and foods produced with the help of pollinators include apples, strawberries, melons, peaches, figs, tomatoes, almonds and chocolate, according to the Pollinator Partnership.
The pollinator gardens also will add to the educational programs Staunton River State Park provides to its guests.
“We’re all about educating people on how we can better the ecosystem,” Lipscomb said. “The pollinator fields will help educate people and show them some of the things they can do at home to attract more pollinators.”
The grant for the pollinator gardens at the state park was part of Keep Virginia Beautiful’s 30 in 30 grants program, designed to empower groups across the state to make an environmental impact on their own communities.
“We’re very proud of this program, which is in its 10th year,” said Beckey Watson, development director for Keep Virginia Beautiful. “Since 2011, we’ve provided $230,000 for 290 different projects throughout the Commonwealth.”
Watson related that Keep Virginia Beautiful is happy to support state parks, which fit in with the organization’s overall mission.
“Our mission is to engage and unite Virginians to improve our natural and scenic environments,” Watson said. “Studies have shown that when you beautify a community, people behave differently…so it is important.”
In addition to awarding grant money to Staunton River State Park for the pollinator gardens project, Watson said Keep Virginia Beautiful also has worked with the Virginia Department of Transportation on a related project — its Adopt-a-Highway program involving the planting of wildflowers that attract bees and other pollinators.