A pollinator garden in a Woodridge park began with a bioswale seeded with native species then expanded into a collaborative enterprise when three organizations with a shared goal of protecting the environment joined the project.

A wet area in the 83rd St Park had already been seeded with native species when the Woodridge Park District received a call from Mary Onorad, President of the Woodridge Rotary Club. Rotary International had recently initiated Operation Pollination, a collaborative approach for local clubs to work with community partners on reversing pollinator decline. Onorad was looking for a partner and location for planting a pollinator garden.

She found both at the Woodridge Park District.

The park district seeded the bioswale in 2021 and by early 2022 plants were emerging but more were needed to fill in gaps to out compete opportunistic weeds. This was the opportunity Onorad was looking for, she would apply for funds for the additional plants to strengthen the bioswale’s resistance to weeds. Adding more pollinator-friendly species would also increases diversity which is beneficial for both habitat resilience and pollinators.

The park district agreed to designate a portion of the 150′ long swale for her project. As a newcomer to native plants and pollinators, she reached out to the DuPage Monarch Project for suggestions on next steps. After consulting with Jim Kleinwachter, DuPage Monarch Project board member and Bruce Blake, DMP’s Habitat Specialist, a decision was made to go with plants instead of seeds for quicker impact in heading off weeds. A list of plants was drawn up which were purchased from Prairie Wind Native Plants and planted by volunteers under the guidance of Blake in June.

The park district watered the plants three times a week until they were established. By late summer, colorful flowers were blossoming and the garden was coming together as pollinator habitat.

The final step was to inform park visitors about the decline of monarch butterflies and pollinators with an interpretative sign. The bioswale manages storm water as well as supporting pollinators so qualified for a grant from Illinois American Water which was used to purchase the sign.

Photo: DuPage Monarch Project