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Program aims to increase pollinator population

Greater Kokomo Alliance initiative partners with local businesses to create habitats

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PLUG PLANTING — Volunteers with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and The Crossing School of Business and Entrepreneurship plant pollinator plugs along the Clover Leaf Trail near Mehlig Dog Park.

KOKOMO, Ind. (Sept. 20, 2019) – The Greater Kokomo Downtown Association and Duke Energy are teaming up to create a pollinator habitat along Defenbaugh Street.

The habitat will be created through the planting of native flowering plants that sustain pollinators with nutrient-rich nectar and pollen, said Susan Alexander, manager of downtown creative placemaking for the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance. This is a conservation practice that aims to increase pollinator populations throughout the growing season.

Alexander worked with Spence Restoration Nursery to identify and select plants that will attract and benefit bees, butterflies and bats — all of which are important components of the food chain. The Duke Energy Foundation is providing more than 1,100 pollinator plant plugs for the habitat that will cover a tenth of an acre between the parking lot entrances at Duke Energy.

The plugs will be planted Tuesday, Sept. 24 by Duke Energy employees and community volunteers.

“Pollinator projects are among the many initiatives the Duke Energy Foundation’s ‘Powerful Communities’ program supports to enhance the quality of life for our communities,” said Kevin Johnston, Duke Energy government and community relations manager for Howard County. “We are honored to be a part of it and to help provide funding for this important project.”

This planting is part of The Pollinator Project, an Alliance-facilitated initiative to partner with area land owners to create habitats that will attract and support pollinator species.

The initiative has already facilitated pollinator plantings in downtown Kokomo, along the Clover Leaf Trail near Mehlig Dog Park, and in Jackson Marrow Park. Completed in spring 2019, these projects were a partnership with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, The Crossing School of Business and Entrepreneurship, Central Middle International School and KeyBank.

The Pollinator Project is an extension of the downtown association’s Keep Kokomo Beautiful initiative which brings together volunteers annually to plant flower baskets and downtown garden areas as well as maintaining trails.

“This project builds on the work started with Keep Kokomo Beautiful,” Alexander said. “The Pollinator Project not only beautifies our community, it also has a positive impact on our environment.”

The Duke Energy partnership will continue in the spring when an additional 5 acres to the east of the utility’s parking area will be seeded with pollinator habitat flowers and grasses.

Signage will be obtained for the habitats to draw attention to the native plant restoration in progress.

“We’ll need to be patient through the growing process,” Alexander said. “It will take three years for the plants and grasses to mature, allowing us to fully enjoy the habitat’s natural beauty.”

This is just the start for The Pollinator Project, she said.

“Our hope is that these habitats are planted throughout the community,” she said. “Not only will they grow local numbers of pollinators and help the environment, they will decrease maintenance costs through reduced mowing.”

Partnerships are available to local business owners. Those interested in providing space for a habitat, providing financial sponsorship or volunteering can contact Alexander at salexander@greaterkokomo.com or by calling 765-457-5301.

About the Greater Kokomo Downtown Association

The Greater Kokomo Downtown Association is a network of individuals, volunteers, and businesses committed to preserving, promoting, and enhancing the vitality of downtown Kokomo through economic development, design initiatives, and community engagement. The Association’s goal is to create a downtown ecosystem where businesses thrive, residents flourish, and visitors explore in a harmonious community atmosphere.