Bartow pollinator garden named a USDA 'People's Garden'
Wildflowers, trees and grasses native to Pocahontas County flourish in the pollinator garden at the Bartow National Forest District Office, earning itself the title of "People's Garden" from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture).
District Ranger William Dunk explained that the garden was started in 2007 and has finally reached the stage where the flowers and trees are blooming.
"The original intent of the garden was to have another attraction for the area that included native plants and a place to be used as an educational backdrop for school kids," he said.
National Forest Americorp student Amanda Taylor, of Gilbertsville, Pennsylvania, who has a degree in landscape architecture, assisted with the design and makeover of the front entrance garden.
"Her idea was to have long stemmed grasses in the front and then the native pollinator plants and trees in the back, so it will go from prairie to forest," Dunk said.
Although the plant life has taken to the soil and flourished, the garden is currently closed to visitors because of a waterline break.
"This year, we had a waterline system makeover and so they dug a trench through it and kind of set us back on getting it 100 percent complete," Dunk said. "They had to dig up the trail and we haven't had a chance to fix it yet."
Along with the waterline issue, the garden has also fallen victim to weeds, which have taken over a large portion of the trail garden, as well as the front entrance garden.
"We've been trying to figure out how to take care of the weed problem without using herbicides, which hasn't been successful," Dunk said. "We do what we can and work toward our goal. A garden is one of those things that takes four or five years for it to really look nice."
The efforts put into the pollinator garden serve more than just the ranger's office. Many of the plants and trees grown in the garden are transplanted into areas of the county that need replanting, such as former strip mines.
"We have a partnership with the USDA plant material center in Alderson for propagating local plants," Dunk explained. "They are propagating a lot of plants that we're putting in the landscape and in areas like the old strip mine on Cheat in the Mower Tract area. We did some Balsam Fir planting, they're a pretty rare species in this area.
"It's pretty exciting, especially for the Mower Tract because that area has been in a kind of resting state of succession and there's a lot we can do up there for the wildlife and environment," he continued. "That's one of my goals, to go up there and start planting and doing some deep ripping on the really compacted soils."
Two members of the district who coordinated the garden rely on volunteers to assist them with the maintenance of the gardens. Dunk said everyone at the office lends a hand, but they could really use volunteers for the everyday maintenance.
The "People's Gardens" initiative was piloted by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in 2009 with the unveiling of a People's Garden in Washington, D.C.
"Last year, I decided to visibly remind folks that gardening is at the front and center of what we do here at USDA," Vilsack said in a press release. "To have 'People's Gardens' in every state is a tremendous achievement and just one example of the dedication and commitment of all USDA employees in collaboration with their communities."
People's Gardens are now in an abundance, existing in all 50 states, two U.S. territories and three foreign countries. The gardens demonstrate the connections people can make between providing access to nutritious food, while protecting the landscape where the food is grown, serving communities and helping those in need. They also provide educational opportunities for children and adults about nutrition and sustainability.
Six People's Gardens were named in West Virginia, including the Bartow National Forest District Office. The five other gardens are: The Green Palace, Harpers Ferry Job Corps CCC vegetable garden, Harpers Ferry, Jefferson County; The Pepper Patch USDA People's Garden vegetable garden, McMechen, Marshall County; Sabraton Professional Building Garden two butterfly/pollinator gardens, Morgantown, Monongalia County; Cranberry Mountain Nature Center Gauley Ranger District pollinator garden, Richwood, Nicholas County; and Ripley USDA Service Center People's Garden raised bed and container vegetable garden, Ripley, Jackson County.