Don’t worry, bees happy at Keehner Park
By: Drew Reeder
Coneflower, milkweed, Queen-of-the-prairie, partridge pea and another two dozen or so flowering plants are attracting pollinators at Keehner Park thanks to the work of local volunteer horticulturists.
An existing garden on the west side of the park started coming back to life in July 2017 after the Township entered into an agreement with the Ohio State University Extension, Butler County, and its Master Gardener Volunteer Program to rehab the overgrown green space near the Cabin in the Clearing.
“We have about 130 Master Gardener volunteers. They are trained through an eight-week course, one day per week that we hold at the Extension office, and they volunteer 50 hours back to the community,” said Cindy Meyer, county director and agriculture and natural resources educator.
About 40 of those Butler County Master Gardeners (BCMG) have spent a year renovating and maintaining the large, once-forgotten garden bed. For its part, the Township provides volunteers with resources like plants, mulch, and access to water and other supplies.
The goal of the cooperative project is not only to keep the 123-acre park looking beautiful but to also encourage pollinators to thrive.
“Pollinators are so important to our everyday lives. Did you know that we can thank a pollinator for one in every five bites we eat?” Meyer said. Pollinators are animals that fertilize plants, resulting in seeds and the fruit surrounding the seeds.
The plants for West Chester’s pollinator garden were strategically selected to help cultivate the local pollinator population. About 90 percent of the plants are native to this area said longtime BCMG volunteer Sandy Seiwert.
“We are going to bring in butterflies, hummingbirds, beetles, bats and any kind of bug that wants to come – we want our garden to move,” said Seiwert, one of three BCMG team leaders.
The garden at Keehner Park, 7211 Barret Road, originally took shape in June 2012 as an Eagle Scout Project by Michael Catania of Troop 947. He landscaped the space and laid the initial brick edging, outlining the garden into the shape of a butterfly. The butterfly shape remains, but all the plants are new.
“Nothing had been done for probably five years, so it had some really big weeds in it. We took out almost everything,” Seiwert said. Plant species in the ground today were brought in from places including the Cincinnati Zoo’s EcOhio Farm and Wetland, and from Miami University in Oxford.
“Most of the Master Gardeners that are coming [to volunteer at Keehner Park] are Master Gardeners that live in this area, helping their own community,” Seiwert said. She has been with the program for about 10 years and encourages others to get involved.
Volunteers meet at the pollinator garden on select Tuesday mornings. As part of its agreement with the Township, the OSU Extension office also collaborates with parks staff to host educational seminars for residents in the community. BCMG has already been involved with the children’s WOLF Program at Keehner Park and has been an exhibitor at West Chester’s Farmers Market, which meets Saturdays on The Square.
No prior skills or experience is necessary to join the Master Gardener Volunteer Program. To learn more, call 513-887-3722 or visit butler.osu.edu.