Brian Tibbs, executive director of the Washington Park District, believes the pollinator garden at Meadow Valley Park is already a beautiful spot for area nature-lovers to visit. 

“It’s a hidden gem,” he said. “It’s one of the park areas we have that is fairly wild and natural. There are hiking trails around that area. You can take your family on a hike, you can get to it easily, it’s beautiful and it’s unique. We’ve had photographers and bird (watchers) out there. It’s only going to be better over the years.”

In a year or two, he believes the garden, located at 105 S. Spruce St., Washington, will flourish and will become not merely beautiful, but spectacular. He encouraged area residents who have already visited the garden in the spring or summer to return at different times of the year for a different, but always attractive appearance.

“Different things bloom throughout the year,” Tibbs said. “There are certain flowers that take July heat and bloom better then. Certain other things do well in early spring. So, it appears different each time you go out there.”

The pollinator garden began two years ago when Washington resident and pollinator enthusiast Sarah Hostetler conceived the idea of setting aside a portion of Meadow Valley Park for the purposes. Her vision was of a garden with walking trails that would be both visually appealing and educational. 

“People will be able to see what this part of Illinois looked like before it was given over to farmland, and it will be a really pretty place to just take a walk,” said Hostetler in a September 2017 interview with the Pekin Daily Times.

The Washington Park District supported the project with funding, equipment and a parcel of land at the park that is between one and two acres. Environmental protection groups and local volunteers helped clear the portion of the park that had been given over to the planting of milkweed, wildflowers and native grasses. According to Tibbs, a pollinator garden takes three or four years to come to full fruition. But in two years, the garden at Meadow Valley Park has already begun to attract pollinators, and wildflowers have already begun to add their own splashes of color.

“If you go out there right now, you can definitely see butterflies,” said Tibbs. “There’s some pops of color coming in: yellows and whites and pinks. You’ll see (other) pollinators like bees and maybe a hummingbird. With the clearing we were able to do, it’s more attractive and easier to find.”

The project began with clearing the parcel of brush, trees and saplings that would not have been conducive to the development of a pollinator garden, Tibbs added. Then, wildflowers and milkweed were planted. This spring, the park district, with the help of local volunteers, burned the parcel to help with the garden’s development.

“(It’s something) you’re supposed to do to help keep some of the invasive (plants) down, and hopefully open up some of the (wildflower) seeds we wish to have,” said Tibbs. “Milkweed, I believe, does not take fire to open up. That’s the one the monarch butterflies need to survive.”

For more information, visit www.washingtonparkdistrict.com.