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Laurel for the Patuxent working for our pollinators | OLD TOWN

Pollinator conservation efforts will be coming to a yard near you this spring as Laurel for the Patuxent, the city’s environmental group, promotes several initiatives to engage residents in sustainability projects.

Pollinator promotion will take two main forms, said Brian Coyle, one of the group’s co-chairs. The first is a community pollinator garden near Sweitzer Park along Sandy Spring Road. Laurel for the Patuxent is collaborating with the city of Laurel’s Department of Parks and Recreation to create a 20-by-60-foot plot that will feature a variety of flowering native plants, which are necessary for a healthy bee and butterfly population. The garden will serve as an educational tool as well, with signage posted to inform visitors and announce plans in the works to host public programs by conservation experts.

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“We hope to get a lot of people involved in planting and maintaining the garden,” Coyle said.

The group will complement that public effort with a concerted push to encourage private initiative through an eco-friendly yards campaign. The goal is to move from “relatively lifeless monoculture lawns,” Coyle said, to “biodiversity-rich habitats.”

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Laurel for the Patuxent hopes to help “shift people’s thinking about what a lawn should be: the conventional aesthetic of a green lawn, or something new and interesting and more effective for biodiversity,” Coyle said.

Laurel for the Patuxent hopes to hold a workshop this spring to encourage residents to create insect "hotels," like the one pictured above, and other animal habitats using upcycled materials.
Laurel for the Patuxent hopes to hold a workshop this spring to encourage residents to create insect "hotels," like the one pictured above, and other animal habitats using upcycled materials. (Ruth Walls/Courtesy photo / HANDOUT)

Eco-friendly yards have several components, starting with gardens that focus on planting species that are native and friendly to pollinators. Laurel for the Patuxent took the first step toward this goal in the fall when it offered free milkweed seeds to residents. Other features of eco-friendly yards are the reduction of the use of pesticides and better stormwater management, including the use of appropriate landscaping, rain barrels, and rain gardens.

Residents can consider reducing the amount of outdoor light on their properties, Coyle said, because too much artificial light at night can have negative impacts on migratory birds and some insects.

Finally, eco-friendly yards provide friendly habitats for different animal species. Laurel for the Patuxent hopes to offer a project to assist residents in building bird houses, owl boxes and insect “hotels” with upcycled materials. Longtime Old Town residents Mike and Ruth Walls constructed the first such box this winter and are helping with the project. The group plans to build one large insect hotel, possibly as tall as 10 feet, at the planned community pollinator garden at Sweitzer Park.

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The group also hopes to plant 150 trees in honor of the city’s 150th anniversary this spring. Some will be on residential properties, while others will be planted along the Patuxent River. At the end of the summer, Laurel for the Patuxent would like to partner with a national pollinator conservation program to tag monarch butterflies to track their migratory patterns.

The group has strong support from Old Town residents, Coyle said. It hopes to expand its efforts to reach out to residents of Ward 2, which is concentrated south of Route 198.

“An ideal outcome from the [eco-friendly] yards campaign is to have some people participating in all the neighborhoods across the city so there are visible examples of an alternative to a conventional lawn,” he said, “and inspire people to do something different.”

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