Guest blog by Heidi James, Bee City USA – Lynchburg Co-Chair, and Lucy Hudson, Park Services Specialist at Lynchburg Gardens and Natural Resources
Lynchburg, Virginia, became the 89th affiliate of Bee City USA in the fall of 2019, joining an ever expanding network of communities committed to pollinator protection. Several local garden clubs worked with Lynchburg’s Department of Parks and Recreation to achieve the designation. A working committee made up of around 20 representatives from local conservation organizations, educational institutions, nonprofits, and city departments was created to oversee Bee City-related projects. Becoming an affiliate of Bee City USA has generated enthusiasm and energy, enabling us to get off to a running start.
In our first year of affiliation we were able to take on a variety of projects, aimed at engaging a wide range of community members. Just before COVID-19 led to restrictions on gatherings, we were able to arrange for the Disney movie, “Wings of Life”, to be brought to town for two free showings, one to 600 local sixth graders and a second viewing for the general public. The showings were incredibly well received, especially by teachers who said the movie was a great supplement to their earth science curriculum.
Lynchburg’s multi-disciplinary, hands-on museum, Amazement Square, hosted pollination programs throughout the year. Amazement Square kicked off the year with a viewing of the film The Pollinators, which attracted an audience of 50 people. The screening was followed by two Saturday programs focused on bees and what we can all do to help them. Meet a Beekeeper and What’s the Buzz with Melissa the Bee attracted a total of 150 participants. When we had to close the museum due to COVID-19 in early March, a new series of virtual programming, Amazement Square, Anywhere!, was created. In addition to pollination programs, Amazement Square also created a new pollinator garden which has gained lots of attention from museum guests and trail walkers. The garden includes a variety of seasonally blooming plants to create a year-round environment for pollinators and educates visitors about native bees, honey bees, and other pollinators.
In addition to our education and outreach work we took on a variety of projects to create and enhance habitat for pollinators throughout our community. Bee City USA – Lynchburg worked with the city Buildings and Grounds Department and the Inspections Division to reduce mowing and herbicide use on local roadways and vacant lots, allowing these areas to grow and provide food and habitat for pollinators. We have been putting articles in the newspaper about this project to educate the public and address concerns about unmown areas.
The City Parks and Recreation Department and City Water Resources installed numerous pollinator gardens and rainwater gardens with accompanying signage. The Blue Ridge Conservation group, in cooperation with the City of Lynchburg and Bee City USA – Lynchburg, created a large roadside pollinator bed containing 1,300 native plants, trees and shrubs that will provide continuous bloom from spring through fall.
The members of Bee City USA – Lynchburg are also all actively participating by taking on their own projects and fostering collaboration between interested groups. For instance, our local Bee Campus USA affiliate, Randolph College, has installed a pollinator garden using native plants. The garden includes signage about native plants and pollinators to help educate visitors. Our local garden clubs are installing native-plant beds along highways in partnership with the city and they have also created a garden certification program to encourage citizens to plant and maintain pollinator gardens. A new brochure focused on creating pollinator gardens using native plants helps community members get started.
There is a lot of support for and excitement about the Bee City USA program in Lynchburg. In addition to our work in the community, we encourage other cities across the state to join us in this effort and hope to create a Virginia pollinator pathway. We can’t say enough good things about our affiliation with Bee City USA and look forward to the pollinator programing and projects in the year to come!