When was the last time you saw bees, butterflies, moths and even hummingbirds occupying space in your yard. If the City of Dallas’ recently launched pollinator program works like they hope it will, these important local pollinators might be around a lot more in the future.
The city’s pollinator program was put in place to help negate the declining population of essential pollinators that include bees, butterflies, birds, bats and moths. The program was developed by the Park and Recreation Department’s Senior Environmental Coordinator/Urban Biologist, Brett Johnson.
One of the first parks to kick off the program was Oak Cliff’s Kiest Park where Johnson was on hand to share tips on how anyone can plant the perfect pollinator garden and habitat in their own back yard.
“Kiest Park was selected for the quality of work historically put into the wildflower areas in that particular area,” Johnson explains. “I wanted to give some recognition to park staff that maintain that particular wildflower area. The Kiest Park wildflower area is an excellent visual of what these wildflower areas can look like. Historically, the wildflower areas have been primarily aimed at spring blooming plants. As we move forward, we will be looking at expanding the wildflower areas and moving some of the areas to be aimed at fall blooming species for the fall migration of pollinators.”
Overall, the Dallas Park and Recreation Department is looking at conservation efforts on a variety of levels, but Johnson says on a small scale the department is establishing demonstration pollinator gardens in various parks around Dallas.
“Initially, we are looking at having at least one demonstration garden in each of the six parks maintenance districts,” he explains. “Each will be certifiable as Monarch Waystations. Around these areas we avoid the use of pesticides as much as possible, and look at instillation of “bee blocks.”
From there the Parks Department will look at expanding the current wildflower areas to provide more fall blooming species to assist with the fall migration of Monarchs.
A decline in pollinators in the Dallas area has been happening since the 1950’s when, Johnson says “we started shifting from a rural area to a more urban area. It’s only been in the last decade or so that we really started understanding the decline, and overall implications.”
Most of the Dallas area was historically Blackland Prairie, but Johnson says “bison, changes in agricultural practices, pesticide usage, and urbanization in general, the Dallas area has changed rather drastically in the last 150 years. Some species have adapted well to the change, but many have declined within the Dallas area. Many of the species that end up doing well end up being non-native, invasive species, like the red imported fire ant.”
The Dallas Parks and Recreation Department's pollinator program is an effort to help all pollinators find their way back to the area including the native bees of which there are 700-plus species in Texas to the beetles, butterflies, native ants, moths, flies and hummingbirds, and of course, Johnson says “the Monarch Butterfly.”
Since the approach is multi-tiered, many parks across Dallas will be impacted in some manner by the pollinator program and park visitors might see demonstration gardens, a mowing regime in a “natural area,” an expansion in the current “wildflower area” or, in some cases, work being done related to prairie restoration.
Overall the Dallas area has some amazing prairie remnants. Johnson points out that White Rock Lake and Harry S. Moss Park are examples and, even though there are various issues at both locations he believes that with help from volunteers the areas can be improved.
“One of the biggest things we can do for all pollinators in Dallas is to continue working on improving the prairie remnants within the city,” Johnson concludes.