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Pollinator Roadsides Project

Updated: Aug 18, 2023

Black Eyed Susans in wildflower garden
Wildflower Meadow

A pollinator roadside, also known as a pollinator-friendly roadside or pollinator corridor, refers to a stretch of land along roadsides that has been intentionally designed and managed to support pollinating insects and other wildlife. Pollinators are animals, such as bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and beetles, that play a crucial role in the reproduction of many plants by transferring pollen from one flower to another, thereby enabling fertilization and the production of seeds and fruits.

Pollinator roadways are created with the aim of providing a habitat for these important pollinator species, helping to counteract the decline in their populations due to factors such as habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change. These roadways are typically planted with a variety of native flowering plants that provide nectar and pollen resources for pollinators throughout the growing season.

A women with a red top standing in front of a pollinator friendly garden
Jennifer Leat, Project Lead

We met up with Jennifer Leat, who is the Pollinator Roadsides Project leader. She shared her vision with us and how we can be a part of this naturalization project. For the full video interview, click here.

"This project originated from pictures that I saw from my cousin in England. They have been planting the roadsides with pollinator plants and this has become widespread rather than the exception. It’s very common in the UK. I started to look around the Kitchener-Waterloo area and the express ways have large areas that are just mowed and which really don’t provide anything for pollinators or wildlife. These could be planted not only near on-ramps and off-ramps but also large roadside edges and even wide medians, for example Highway 8 to Stratford. The opportunity to create a large acreage of pollinator gardens is right there. We can reclaim these areas for wildlife, something that we, as humans have been taking from wildlife for our own use. That’s just one advantage, it’s also much more beautiful to look at!"

What are some other advantages of creating a pollinator roadside?

Water retention, cost savings, gas savings for not mowing the grass come to mind. The pollinator garden is mowed once a year only. For example, in the UK, there are savings of up to £93,000 per year.

Dorset County Council saves around £93,000 a year by only cutting rural road verges when needed, Burnley Borough Council estimates that it saves around £60,000 per annum from cutting back on grass-cutting to help pollinators, and Monmouthshire County Council estimates that the saving made from a reduction in highway verge mowing is approximately £35,000 each year. Read the full article.

The goal is to make this pollinator roadside gardening the standard and the usual way in which roadsides are maintained. Traditional grass offers no environmental benefit to pollinators or wildlife.

Where is the project going to be located?

Road with grass and powerlines
Roadside in Kitchener

We’re working towards doing a pilot project on a regional road in Kitchener this fall. The site we have chosen is at the intersection of Fisher-Hallman and Glasgow. There is quite a big section that is free of utilities and at the moment it’s just grass.

We’ll be collecting seeds and plants once we have our plant list completed. Most of the plants will be native because they are more beneficial for pollinators. Waterloo Gardeners has supported us from an early stage - we’re glad to get that support. Waterloo Region Nature is the organization taking the lead and the Region of Waterloo is supporting us too.

Are there any sponsors to this project?

We want to thank the Region of Waterloo Community Environmental Fund for sponsoring this project to help covering some of the costs.

pollinator on a purple cone flower bee
Purple Cone flower and a happy bee

How can we help?

Once we have the final plant list, we’ll send it to via email to those who gave their contact information. We’ll be doing some soil samples soon and decide on the best plants.

We’ll be taking seeds and small potted plants. There will be opportunities to volunteer with planting and maintenance for the first year, then we hope the city will take care of it going forward so we can focus on more roadsides.

Where can people find out more?

The website has all the information: Sign up here

Thank you, Jennifer, for taking the lead on such an important project.

Read more about other pollinator initiatives in the articles below:

Grey Coneflower native ontario plant with yellow leaves
Grey Coneflower

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