Plan to create more natural pollinators in Dubuque parks could decrease maintenance costs

Dubuque city officials say a plan to add more pollinators to local parks could save the environment while reducing maintenance costs.
Published: Mar. 1, 2022 at 11:11 PM CST
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - Phylicia Chandler has been working with bees for almost a decade. Her love for bees started back in graduate school and now she works to educate people in Dubuque about the impact bees and pollinators have on the environment.

”They (bees) bring the color and the life to the landscape and it works its way up the food chain, so those are food for the birds and the other animals and so on so forth,” she explained. “Even though they are small, they are an integral part of our environment.”

That is, in part, why Dubuque city officials are looking to create more natural pollinators in local parks, like Murphy and Flora. The city’s leisure services manager, Marie Ware, said the project, which has been in the works for years, consists in turning regular flower beds into pollinator beds.

“The next version of that for us is to look at where in our park system can we actually increase the amount of pollinators and particularly in those areas where maybe it is an area where not a lot of people walk in but yet it is still part of the park,” she added.

Ware explained the city mows local parks around 25 times a year, but the new pollinators would not need mowing. Adding these mean the number of acres the city would have to mow would decrease. Ware said, because of this, the city could save some money.

”If you think about what has to happen you have to have a person, you have to have a lawnmower, you have to put things in the lawnmower, you have to maintain the lawnmower,” she listed. “So as you look into how many acres you are doing, that conversion helps to drop that number of acres which then drops certain maintenance.”

Dubuque city council members are scheduled to look at the plan in their 2023 fiscal year budget meetings, but city manager Mike Van Milligen has not recommended this program for approval. It is unusual for council members to take on something not recommended by the city manager. Van Milligen recommended 128 out of 159 requests. A city spokesperson said the reason why he did not recommend the pollinator project is because he has to prioritize requests since there are always more requests than there is funding.

Knowing that city officials might decide not to allocate funds towards it, Ware said they will look into outside funding if necessary to make it happen.

”The speed at which that can be done is based upon the funding and we will continue to go after any funding source that might be possible to help us do that,” she added.

Chandler, for one, hopes people in the area will make taking care of pollinators a top priority.

“We in Iowa, and really around this area, have a huge opportunity and responsibility for the monarch butterfly,” she mentioned. “We are in the prime habitat for that monarch butterfly and so we need to step up.”

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