Members of Uwchlan Township’s Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) planted a milkweed garden near the Township’s meeting hall on Ship Road in Exton on May 29 and 30 to establish a Monarch Butterfly Waystation. The planting was done by Laura Obenski, EAC Chairperson, Alexa Manning, and Toni Gorkin, project organizer. The garden is part of the EAC’s Project “Heart of Uwchlan,” in alignment with the Township’s #SustainableUwchlan focus. The project’s purpose is to introduce native plants to the campus to increase biodiversity and support pollinators so essential to a sound area ecosystem. The project’s goals also include environmental education by establishing learning stations to educate township families about nature and sustainable practices to enhance the environment.
Some of the plants in the Monarch Waystation were sown last fall, at an EAC workshop on how to sow milkweed seeds so they receive their required “stratification” cold treatment over winter. The plants include common milkweed, pink swamp milkweed, whorled milkweed, and butterfly weed, all of which are hosts for the monarch butterfly. They also planted liatris and showy goldenrod to provide pollen to feed the migrating adult butterflies. “We hope this garden will be a focal point of interest for children,” noted Alexa Manning, an experienced environmental educator, “so they will learn about the life cycle of beneficial insects and how they can make a positive contribution to the environment. Kids naturally love butterflies, and we invite them, when they can, to become involved in our Monarch Waystation.”
The Heart of Uwchlan project also started a stream-side garden of native plants along the small stream that runs below the ponds on the Township campus. “We started last fall to prepare the area with a technique called lasagna gardening,” explains Toni Gorkin. “That process involved laying cardboard, leaves, and mulch to kill weeds and introduce organic material into what was lawn, without hard tilling that harms the soil life. The purpose of that garden is to plant native plants that tolerate wet ground as a “riparian buffer” to restore the stream bank and manage floodwater.” The EAC planted chokeberry, Joe-Pye Weed, and other native plants. In addition, in early March, “live stakes,” cuttings of dogwood and elderberry, were put into the stream bank to take root and also improve the stream banks. “All of these techniques are really good examples of what homeowners can do to beautify and improve their own properties, especially with the great increase in rainfall we have seen. These are techniques they can also learn about from Penn State webinars and online information. But it helps to see it demonstrated.”
The Heart of Uwchlan project is supported by several kinds of environmental expertise beyond the Environmental Advisory Council. The project came out of Toni Gorkin’s training as a Pennsylvania Master Naturalist. “A key goal of that program is to train us to engage the public in the natural environment,” she notes. This project also grew out of her love of gardening with native plants. It has the support of the Township’s Board of Supervisors and the head of Public Works. Members of Penn State’s Master Watershed Training program, several Master Gardeners, and other volunteers have provided input.
“As soon as we can safely do so, we hope to engage the public — as visitors, volunteers, and project stewards,” says EAC Chair Laura Obenski. “Outreach is a key goal of the EAC.” The purpose of the EAC, established in 2018, is to increase public awareness, education, and involvement regarding environmental issues such as energy conservation, stormwater management, recycling, pollution management, and enhancing biodiversity. In addition to Heart of Uwchlan, the EAC is working to forward the Township’s “Ready for 100% Clean Energy” resolution, to assist the public with fighting invasive insects like spotted lantern fly, and to promote sound environmental practices of all kinds. “Stay tuned,” say the EAC members, “There will be ways for you to become involved.” The EAC is recruiting two additional members. Contact them through the EAC link on the Township website, or email email@example.com, if you are interested.