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Pollinator kits help Ojai teens take butterflies under their wings

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Photo by Timothy Teague

Green Valley Project youth leader Myranda Felton works alongside community members to plant a pollinator garden at Topa Topa School on March 19. This garden is part of a network of pollinator corridors the group is trying to develop in the
region to provide more habitat for threatened butterflies, bees and other pollinators.

By Perry Van Houten Ojai Valley News senior reporter

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Teen leaders from Ojai are challenging valley residents to plant native pollinator gardens in their yards.

This spring, participants in the Green Valley Project, a program of nonprofit The C.R.E.W., are designing and planting three educational gardens with a variety of native pollinator-friendly plants.

They’re also handing out pollinator corridor kits, so residents can create even more local habitat to bring pollinator numbers back up.

“Locally, the western monarch has declined by 99.9% since the 1980s,” said Tara Fay, GVP program coordinator.

It’s not just the monarch — bees, birds, moths, flies and beetles are also threatened. “They have an important role in our natural ecosystem, and without them it would be devastating to us and all the animals on Earth, so it’s really important to take care of them,” Fay said.

To improve and repair damaged ecosystems, the teens envision a network of pollinator gardens. “Our goal is to have 53 native pollinator gardens planted in the Ojai Valley through different large community gardens and smaller home gardens, with all-native California plants that are sourced from the Nordhoff Nursery and grown by Nordhoff students,” Fay said.

GVP has partnered with Monarch Fellowship, which is trying to create a network of pollinator gardens statewide.

Another partner is Watershed Progressive, which helped participants design a showpiece pollinator garden installed April 2 at Mama Walnut Ranch in Upper Ojai.

From the experts, the young people learn which plants work best together in a home garden while providing the best habitat for pollinators. “Having milkweed for the little caterpillars, all the way to shelter, food, shade; everything they need to survive as they journey through the Ojai Valley,” said Fay.

Two other youth-designed pollinator gardens are being planted this spring. The first was installed at Topa Topa Elementary School on March 19; the second is going in at the Humane Society of Ventura County in Ojai on April 16.

Pollinator corridor participants include some 18 teens from all the Ojai high schools and a few colleges in the area, according to Fay.

They’ll be going door-to-door in some neighborhoods, inviting residents to plant their own pollinator gardens and offering pollinator kits for a suggested donation of $50.

The kits include 10 pollinator-friendly plants, native wildflower and grass seed, and a brochure created by the teens with instructions on planting, caring for and watering the plants. “They’re all California natives so they don’t need as much care as a typical plant in your garden. They don’t need as much water,” said Fay.

Residents will also get a youth-designed lawn sign announcing that the household has joined the pollinator corridor.

Young people started handing out pollinator kits April 7 at the GVP booth at the Thursday Ojai Community Farmers’ Market. Future dates are April 21 and May 5.

Beyond Ojai, GVP hopes to share its pollinator vision with people throughout Ventura County. It’s partnered with the Agriculture Museum in Santa Paula for an art exhibit, a photo mural and a music video created with the help of local band “Sage Against the Machine.”

In late May, a sneak peak at the exhibit is planned at Flourish Ojai.

The idea to create pollinator corridors came from GVP youth councils, which last year planted 50 native trees donated by Ojai Trees. This year, they decided to design, plant and promote pollinator gardens. “They actually created the whole vision for it and saw it through to completion,” said Fay. “They’ll have that amazing resumé before they’re even in college.”

For more information on pollinator kits and helping with community pollinator garden plantings, visit
https://bit.ly/3JkCJlW.

 

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