For The Tribune
Mix together the Science Club members from Crothersville Junior-Senior High School, a whole lot of native wildflowers and a hiking trail.
Add in the town of Crothersville that wants to improve its parks and a grant from the Community Foundation of Jackson County.
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Last, sprinkle on some volunteers and support from local business owners and nonprofits.
What do you get?
A new habitat for pollinators and an official hiking trail at Crothersville’s Countryside Park.
“This project has been a hit for Crothersville. The students helped, and we’re making the park a place where more people want to spend time,” said Tiffany Reynolds, a member of the town’s park board who also serves on the Crothersville Community School Corp. board of trustees.
“Many people in Crothersville don’t know about Countryside Park or all that you can do there now,” she said. “We’re seeing increased foot traffic from Crothersville Youth League ballplayers and their families, and we hope others will come, too. It feels good to be able to showcase all the great things Countryside has to offer. We’ve been working hard to make the park a place for the whole community.”
The town wanted to make Countryside Park, a 20-acre property on the west edge of town, more attractive to residents. Improvements include hiking trails constructed on the property, a cross country course and a new picnic area and campfire ring in the shade of towering oak trees.
Last fall, it was decided to make the new trails official with the addition of signage with a map of the trails and to add native wildflower plantings to make the park more beautiful. The pollinator planting also helps native butterflies and bees that need the wildflowers.
“We want to make Countryside Park a place where people want to come for fitness, wellness and time together,” Reynolds said. “We know that spending time outside in nature access can’t solve all of the world’s problems, but we know that it can help.”
Crothersville applied for a grant from the Community Foundation of Jackson County to help bring its idea to life. The town also partnered with the Crothersville Junior-Senior High Science Club, Oak Heritage Conservancy and Blevins Fencing, a local business. They received the $4,189 grant and went to work.
Over the winter, the Science Club met to learn about pollinators and talked to Oak Heritage Conservancy, a group that creates nature preserves around southeast Indiana.
The students also learned about how pollinators help people by pollinating their favorite foods, like watermelon and blueberries.
“That’s what’s good about pollinators,” said Matt Otte, a teacher at Crothersville who advises the Science Club. “We talked about how a small native wildflower planting can actually make a difference for butterflies and bees, and the kids seemed to really like designing the pollinator habitat.
“We do a lot with the Ccience Club,” he said. “We take hikes, visit state parks and do an overnight camping trip. This was our first chance to do something focused on service for the town.”
The Science Club members worked in groups to create the best design, one that would have native wildflowers blooming from May to October with the different colors that different types of butterflies and bees need for eating and laying their eggs.
The winning design was created by middle-schoolers Blake Robinson, Dirk Crater and Brayden Crater.
Recently, the students, along with about 20 volunteers from the community, turned that design into a reality.
They planted coneflowers, milkweed, cardinal flowers and many other natives in a 15-by-50-foot native wildflower planting. They also walked the new hiking trails that the town has created and hung signs.
“We were so happy with the turnout for the volunteer day,” Reynolds said. “People in Crothersville are always willing to help out and make the community stronger.”
Later this summer, the town will hang new signs to make the hard work official.
One sign will tell how people can help pollinators. It was designed by the Science Club members.
There also will be a new sign highlighting what visitors can do at the park, including the hiking trail, campfire ring, picnic area, cross country course, softball fields and more.
The sign posts are being donated by Blevins Fencing.
Kyler Blevins, the owner of the business, is a Crothersville High School alumnus and wanted to support the project.
Last but not least, there will be new signs marking the hiking trails and a new layer of mulch put down on the trails thanks to support from the town.
“This project is letting us make the park a place for people and for pollinators,” Reynolds said.
“The Crothersville Countryside Park grant request appealed to the Community Foundation of Jackson County’s board of directors and our grant committee because of the number of people that can be affected by visiting the park and its new trail and wildflower habitat,” said Dan Davis, president and chief executive officer of the foundation.
“As it was noted in the application form, those involve want to make Crothersville and the park a place where people want to come for fitness, wellness and time together, and those are worthy goals,” he said. “We work hard to ensure that our unrestricted and field of interest earnings provide as large an impact as possible throughout Jackson County, and this project certainly will have an impact on Vernon Township.”
For the Countryside Park project, the foundation approved a $4,189 grant, which was funded with earnings from the Immanuel United Church of Christ Vernon Township Community Endowment, Schneider Nursery Inc. Unrestricted Community Fund, Potts Family Endowment, Don Bollinger Memorial Fund and Jackson County Community Endowment.
It was one of 16 grants totaling $54,333 awarded through the foundation’s fall grant program in October 2018.
Countryside Park is open dawn to dusk. The public is invited to enjoy the new and improved hiking trails, see the new pollinator habitat or have a picnic together.