Pollinator Friendly City

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Pollinators: Harrisonburg VA

Establishing Harrisonburg as a Pollinator-Friendly City

In early 2019, Harrisonburg Public Works and Parks and Recreation departments began planting pollinator spaces that are creating a pollinator corridor through The Friendly City. 

What is a pollinator corridor and why is it important?  A pollinator corridor is a pathway of gardens and meadows planted with native pollinator flowers, grasses, and trees that appeal to our native pollinator species of bees, butterflies, moths, birds, and even bats.  This corridor planted through an urban area helps keep our local ecosystem working by providing a pathway for pollinators to travel, rest, and feed.  Did you know 1 out of every 3 bites of the food you eat is thanks to a pollinator?  That's right, pollinators touch 1/3 of the food we consume, over 150 food crops in the United States depend on pollinators.  

Harrisonburg's pollinator corridor is made up of many small areas planted on public grounds.  Some are as small as four square feet.  Occasionally we are lucky to have a public space where we can plant a larger pollinator meadow.  Like the meadow on Noll Drive, by the billboard, that is 4, 791 square feet of pollinator bliss.  These spaces designed for pollinators are important because pollinators are facing global declines due to habitat loss, poor nutrition, and pesticide exposure and it is the City's job to make sure we are proactive in counteracting these issues. Staff, with the assistance of various local organizations such as the local Girl Scouts and First Presbyterian Church volunteers, have installed pollinator spaces in parks as a step toward addressing the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations.


Join the BioBIitz Event!

In September, Harrisonburg's Public Works and Parks and Recreation Departments hosted a BioBlitz event, in support of the Parks for Pollinators campaign happening across the country. 

What's a BioBlitz?  it is an event where staff and community members gather information about pollinators and their habitat in our community.  The data collected during the BioBlitz will show the biodiversity of The Friendly City and provide our staff with important information on how to manage and support our native pollinators, and other species.

Many thanks to the nearly 300 observers who helped gather valuable information for the 2021 BioBlitz.  


Visit the City's Pollinator-Friendly Spaces

Pollinator spaces that city staff have installed and manage are listed in this interactive story map.  So far in 2021, just over 25,000 square feet of new plantings have been added.

Take the Downtown Pollinator walking tour.  This self-guided tour takes about 45 minutes, 20 minutes if you power walk, and hours if you stop to enjoy the amazing stores, shops, sights, and restaurants of Downtown.  You can follow the interactive map that tells a little about each stop along the way, or you can download this pdf map PDF[5MB] where the downtown pollinator spaces can be connected and enjoyed on a 1.1 mile.

The following locations are pollinator-friendly and include native plants but do not have maintained pollinator areas at this time: 

  • Westover Park
  • Hillandale Park
  • Purcell Park
  • Heritage Oaks Golf Course
  • Hillside along E Market Street in front of Gabe's & Hobby Lobby 
  • Many medians and roadsides no longer need to be mowed as frequently by Public Works as they have been transitioned to pollinator gardens


Establishing Pollinator Spaces

Just like any landscaping, pollinator spaces require planning, correct planting techniques, and maintenance in order to be successful.  You can bring the beauty, and benefit, of pollinators to your home!  You can create a pollinator space at your home by planting a bed or meadow in your yard, or by planting in pots or planters on your deck, porch, or balcony.  We do recommend you focus on native plants when planting a pollinator space.

  • Planning and Planting: Pollinator Habitat should consist of native forbs, flowers, and warm-season grasses.  All seed mixes or plugs planted for pollinator habitats within the city should be of native origin and appropriate seeding and planting rate.  Starting with the right species selection for site conditions is paramount to pest management into the future.  All ground to be planted should be surveyed and controlled for vegetative pest prior to planting either by hand pulling, mechanical control, or herbicide treatment.  Soil should be cleaned of thatch (ideally burned) and slightly disturbed to ensure good seed to soil contact, but not deep-tilled in a way that encourages invasive vegetation.  When possible, the seed should be drilled.  If planting small beds, wildflower plugs should be used and mulched appropriately to smother competing vegetation. 
  • Maintenance: Pollinator habitat should be surveyed for invasive vegetation bi-weekly.  Invasive or competing vegetation should be controlled by manual removal whenever feasible, mechanical mowing, or by spot spraying of herbicides.  Over browse of nuisance deer should be dealt with by barrier fencing until the stand is fully established. Pollinator habitat should be mowed once a year during the dormant season to encourage new growth and removal of thatch from the previous growing seasons.  Mowing or burning (where feasible) is the single most important pest management tool to control invasive and woody vegetation. Most insects that occupy native pollinator habitats are truly beneficial.  Insecticides should not be sprayed in or near the pollinator habitat.  The use of burning (where feasible) or mowing should control ticks to the appropriate level.   


Types of Pollinator Spaces

There are two main types of pollinator spaces. The type of pollinator space planted depends on factors such as available space, the purpose of the habitat, and aesthetics. 

  • Pollinator Gardens: Pollinator gardens are small-scale (generally less than 1,000 square feet) areas that can provide an important source of habitat for pollinators. They are sometimes converted from existing mulched beds and include native plants and plugs. These areas are more manicured than pollinator meadows. 
  • Pollinator Meadows: Pollinator meadows are areas of land converted from non-productive mowed fields or turf to pollinator habitat. These can be large scale (greater than 1 acre) or small scale. To establish a meadow, existing vegetation is removed, the seedbed is prepared, and a seed mixture of native plants and grasses is spread. In Harrisonburg, these sites include a mulched or mowed border and must be maintained to ensure invasive species are controlled. 

Pollinator garden at Public Works building     Image of pollinator meadow at Billboard sight on Noll Drive from the summer of 2020  

Learn more about the City's efforts for creating Pollinator Spaces