Establishing Harrisonburg as a Pollinator-Friendly City
Harrisonburg Parks and Recreation and Public Works departments have been supporting our local urban ecosystem by focusing on the installation of pollinator spaces including manicured beds and pollinator meadows throughout the City of Harrisonburg. It is the City's goal to be strategic in the management of the City's green spaces by installing pollinator gardens, creating aesthetically pleasing spaces the community can enjoy while also supporting pollinator species who contribute to an estimated one-third of all foods we eat. 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. In the past year, the department installed and manages pollinator spaces in the following areas:
- Liberty Park
- Downtown Harrisonburg Planters
- Westover Park
- Cecil F. Gilkerson Community Activities Center
- Hillandale Park
- Purcell Park
- Water Street Parking Deck
- Smithland Road Dog Park
- Heritage Oaks Golf Course
- Martin Luther King Jr. Drive
- Interstate 81 - Exit 247B
Pollinator Friendly City Annual Event
Parks and Recreation partnered with other city departments, local related businesses, and organizations to host a "Pollinators in Your Backyard" event that was successful in educating the public on related City efforts while also gaining support and knowledge from all who attended the event. The City plans to host a pollinator-related event annually to continue these efforts. Partners of the Pollinator Friendly City effort include but are not limited to JMU, Edith J. Carrier Arboretum at JMU, The Natural Garden, VDOT, Harrisonburg Public Schools, local Girl Scouts, and local professional Kate LeCroy. If you are interested in being a part of our annual pollinator event, please contact Jeremy Harold at Jeremy.Harold@HarrisonburgVA.gov or call 540-438-1644.
Establishing Pollinator Spaces
Just like any landscaping, pollinator spaces require planning, correct planting techniques, and maintenance in order to be successful.
- 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 insure good seed to soil contact, but not deep tilled in a way that encourages invasive vegetation. When possible, 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 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 habitat are truly beneficial. Insecticides should not be sprayed in or near pollinator habitat. The use of burning (where feasible) or mowing should control ticks to 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, 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. Example Pollinator Garden [732KB]
- 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. Example Pollinator Meadow[798KB]
Supporting Documentation for Pollinator Spaces
- City Comprehensive Plan - Objective 11.2 and 11.4
- Draft Environmental Action Plan - Land Use and Green Space, Goal 4
- Pollinator Corridor Map
Supporting Articles and Media Coverage
- Harrisonburg Recognizes National Pollinator Week - Press Release
- Harrisonburg Celebrates Urban Gardens for National Pollinator Week - The Breeze
- New Pollinator Projects in Local Parks - WHSV
- City Hosts Pollinators In Your Backyard Event - Press Release
- Harrisonburg's Plan Bee - City To Highlight Pollinator Habitat Efforts - DNR
- Pollination Propagation - Event Showcases Efforts To Aid Pollinators - DNR
- Girl Scouts Plant Pollinator Garden In Hillandale Park - DNR
- Pollinator Gardens are Installed to Enhance Green Spaces - Press Release
- Pollinator Garden Planted at Hillandale Park - WHSV
- Pollinator Gardens Added to Harrisonburg Community - The Breeze