A gem of a green space for the city of Winston-Salem, Gateway Nature Preserve is an evolving outdoor area south of downtown. Protected from development from a group of concerned residents in 2008, this 19-acre site is now a place where the public can access walking trails, discover wildlife and enjoy a little nature nestled in the city.
The master plan for Gateway Nature Preserve (GNP) includes a pollinator garden, which will serve as a hot spot for beneficial insects and wildlife. Last September, I spoke with GNP Chair Cornelia Barr about the plans, design, and process behind this pollinator garden. At that time, the area was being solarized — a method of killing existing vegetation with plastic sheeting. Since Barr and I met in September, the location of the pollinator garden had to be re-imagined.
“The Gateway Pollinator Garden has been moved from the earlier site, which flooded repeatedly last fall — as opposed to once every two to three years as it did earlier,” Barr said. “It is now going to be right off Broad Street.”
The original site for the garden was adjacent to Salem Creek and Washington Park’s south parking lot. The new site sits on considerably higher ground, so flooding shouldn’t be a problem. The design of the garden was slightly revised and is already under construction. With this setback, GNP lost almost a year of work and installation, but in the process those involved learned how vulnerable the original site was to stormwater.
“The city cleared the vegetation and we have a contractor/trail builder laying the paths for the site right now,” Barr said. “Our plan is to prep the soil over the summer and begin planting in the fall, with a goal of a formal opening in spring 2020. We have just received a grant from the N.C. Native Plant Society to purchase trees and shrubs.”
The Gateway Nature Preserve pollinator garden is one of three featured sites chosen by the City of Winston-Salem to recognize National Pollinator Week and the efforts of Bee City USA. Bee City USA is an initiative of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, a nonprofit which strives to protect the natural world and native habitat. In 2018, the Winston-Salem City Council unanimously passed a resolution to become a Bee City USA affiliate.
National Pollinator Week was June 17 through 23, designated by the U.S. Senate as a week of awareness for declining pollinator populations. As a recognized Bee City USA affiliate, Winston-Salem participated in events to open conversation about the importance of pollinators. They hosted a pollinator party at the fairgrounds,where they were able to connect with people of all ages about the efforts of Bee City USA and local pollinator gardens.
“Bee City USA has a set of requirements,” said Jennifer Chrysson, Winston-Salem’s Bee City USA liaison. “One of those requirements is to put up a Bee City USA sign. They provide the graphic, but it’s our responsibility to install it,” Chrysson said. “I began looking at where we could put this sign, but I found three really good places.”
For their first year as a Bee City, Chrysson thought three was better than one, and chose three sites to place signage. These include the (future) Gateway Nature Preserve pollinator garden, the meadow at Quarry Park, and Historic Bethabara Park’s pollinator garden.
“The signs are one thing,” Chrysson said. “What we’re really digging into in the Operations Department is mapping all city maintained flower beds; we’re mapping the Keep Winston-Salem Beautiful flower bed program. And what we’ve learned is we don’t really utilize native pollinator plants. So for fiscal year 2019-2020, we will start adding in native pollinator species. That is a goal that’s going to continue.”
As the Bee City USA liaison, Chrysson is learning about what is happening in city parks, and she is meeting pollinator and native plant advocates like GNP’s Barr and Historic Bethabara’s Harriet McCarthy. Chrysson is quickly seeing the big picture about the importance of native plants and pollinator habitats, and she is enthusiastic to take steps to educate the public.
“There are other days to celebrate — Honey Month, World Bee Day, Arbor Day, Earth Day,” Chrysson said. “Other goals are just to foster this dialogue that pollinators and insects matter.”
Now is a great time to visit Winston-Salem’s Bee City USA featured gardens. Though GNP is still under construction, the other two established gardens are full of color and insect activity. Perhaps a visit may even inspire you to incorporate more native plants into your home garden.
Historic Bethabara Park is at 2147 Bethabara Road, Winston-Salem. Quarry Park is at 1790 Quarry Road, Winston-Salem.