EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard

A prairie garden has been planted at Menekaunne Sunrise Early Learning Center with the help of the Marinette County Land & Water Conservation.

MARINETTE — Anne Bartels from Marinette County’s Land Information office is raising awareness about native plants.

As the Information & Education Specialist for Marinette County’s Land Information Office, Bartels launched the Pollinator Invitation Garden (P.I.G.) program last summer to educate locals about the importance of native plants and pollinators. The program also provides locals with plants to start their own pollinator-friendly gardens.

“I’ve always wanted to do something like this for a while, but my office is pretty busy all throughout the year; however, because of COVID we finally have the time. I work year round doing environmental education. I visit schools and talk about water quality, forestry and wildlife; I mostly work with kids from Pre-K until around grade 6,” she said. “I talk to about 7,000 people every year about environment education, so this project is really just and extension of that.”

Bartels began the project last summer with several schools in the area. Schools in both Wausaukee and Crivitz have each installed small gardens filled with local plants on their grounds.

“I’ve been really into native gardening in my personal life, and I’m happy that I can share that knowledge with the community,” Bartels said. She has provided over 800 plants from her own personal garden to the people and groups involved in the program.

“Native plants are extremely important to both native animals and insects. Without these pollinators we wouldn’t be here and we need native plants for our native pollinators,” Bartels said. Several native plants such as beebalms, milkweed, bergamont, coneflowers and others have been planted around the area by Bartels. She also recommends that 12-15 different plant and flower species be planted in every garden, so that they will bloom at different times and provide a constant source of food for pollinators throughout the year.

“We started the program focused on schools, then began reaching out to individual residents this year, and we hope that local businesses will become involved with the program in the near future,” Bartels said. “Right now we have about 40 individuals involved. Honestly, I only expected around 20 people to get involved,” Bartels said. “It shows that people are taking an interest in their local environment.

“I hope I’ll have time to continue the program next year, but once COVID settles down and our offices regularly scheduled events, the program will probably have to be continued in a smaller form.” Bartels said.

If residents are interested and want more information about the program, you can contact Bartels at the Land Information Office of Marinette County or on the Land Information offices Facebook page.