By Debra Murray
NCNPS awards grants through the B.W. Wells Stewardship Fund to community organizations that promote native plants and natural habitats. Here are project reports from five recipients who received awards in 2020 – 2022. Other projects are featured on the website.
How to Apply for a Grant. Is your community group interested in applying for a grant? Read about the B.W. Wells Stewardship Fund and get applications on our website.
Sylvan Heights Bird Park, Halifax County
Sylvan Heights Bird Park is an avian conservation center focused on the breeding and care of rare and endangered bird species and educating the public about the importance of protecting birds and their habitats. The park is also engaged in native habitat restoration on their 18 acres of mostly bottomland forest. In 2020 they received a B.W. Wells grant to install a pollinator garden and educational signs in an area adjacent to their parking lot. Their hard work produced an enticing display of color much enjoyed by visitors. The garden supports native pollinators by providing a varied and high-value habitat, educates the public about the importance of native plants and pollinators, and demonstrates the beauty of native plants to encourage visitors to use them in their home gardens.
Mason Wallace Park Advocates, Charlotte
Mason Wallace Park, a county park in Charlotte, has been adopted by an enthusiastic group of volunteers, the Mason Wallace Park Advocates. They received funds from a B.W. Wells Stewardship grant of North Carolina Native Plant Society in October of 2022. As part of their multi-site project, the group first selected a grassy spot well suited for a native pollinator garden and then meticulously planned the installation. They quickly organized a plant delivery from Lisa Tompkins, a member of the NCNPS Southern Piedmont Chapter and owner of Carolina Heritage Nursery. Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation helped prepare the site for planting and delivered mulch and large decorative stones. To ensure an efficient planting experience, volunteers placed a flag where each plant should go, marked with letters signifying a plant species. They then used handouts to easily match letters on the flags with specific plants. Eleven volunteers helped plant 89 natives in the new garden, each well mulched for the winter. Read Gail Thompson’s report here.
The BotanyBench, Cary
Botany benches are modeled on the neighborhood library boxes, except these storage benches hold seeds of native, pollinator-friendly plants, along with soil, cups, and information sheets. Using funds from a B.W. Wells grant received in 2020, Jennifer Landin and other volunteers constructed two such benches. They placed them in public settings and distributed over 600 seed packets. To measure success for the project, they included surveys for participants to respond to their planting efforts. Twenty-four surveys were returned with 92% positive feedback, and 70% of respondents planned for further engagement with the science projects. People who grew the seeds included all age groups except for 20-29 year olds. This project demonstrates the large impact that is possible by using creative ways to promote native plants.
N.C. Cooperative Extension, Forsyth County Center, Winston-Salem
The Forsyth County Extension Center provides education and programming on non-native invasive plant management. All in-person programming halted due to the pandemic, so the center created a combination virtual workshop + field workday, “Integrated Pest Management for Non-native Invasive Plants of Piedmont NC.” Their initial two workshops were a great success, with 105 participants from across the Piedmont. To handle the increase in participants on workshop field days, Phyllis Smith, the Natural Resources Agent for N.C. Cooperative Extension, requested funds for equipment purchase. The tools have been highly useful in the workshops, allowing Phyllis to meet the demand of increased attendees, and to demonstrate specialized tools such as the root wrench and simple but useful tools such as collapsible and transportable plant material bins. Funds from the grant were also used to purchase live stakes of trees and shrubs, which were planted in the riparian buffer zone of Muddy Creek and along the banks of a stream that runs through the Tohi Garden Trail on the campus of Wake Forest University. In 2022 Phyllis was nationally recognized by the National Association of County Agricultural Agents for her IPM for Invasive Plants workshop. Read Phyllis Smith’s report here.
Charlotte Wildlife Stewards
Charlotte Wildlife Stewards have adopted the Chantilly Ecological Sanctuary, a wide 24-acre floodplain that was created when the City of Charlotte removed several apartment buildings that were prone to flooding. Mecklenburg County Storm Water Services also restored three stream channels and made other enhancements to create a functioning floodplain. Within the Chantilly Ecological Sanctuary, a large pond serves as a storm water control feature. The Charlotte Wildlife Stewards received a B.W. Wells grant from North Carolina Native Plant Society to install native vegetation along the littoral shelf of the pond to create habitat The volunteer group planted pickerel weed, soft rush, and hibiscus species, among others, to further enhance natural ecosystem function and increase nutrient removal. They also used funds for educational signage to explain the importance of functioning floodplains, which they’ve placed in the sanctuary. These kiosks are one step in their overall plan to engage the surrounding community to understand and appreciate the remarkable changes that have occurred since the project began.
Debra Murray is chair of the Grants & Scholarships Committee of the NC Native Plant Society. The committee reviews grant proposals for student research (Tom and Bruce Shinn Fund), community projects (B.W. Wells Stewardship Fund), and land conservation (Alice Zawadzki Land Conservation Fund).