Mo­hawk builds a rooftop pol­li­na­tion par­adise

$6,000 grant from World Wildlife Fund helps with pro­ject

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - KELLY NOSE­WOR­THY knose­wor­thy@thes­pec.com 905-526-3199

Na­tive grasses and bright-coloured flow­ers such as the rud­beckia out­line the pa­tio area on a sec­tion of the li­brary’s roof at Mo­hawk Col­lege.

Elisha Martin, a para­le­gal stu­dent at the col­lege, is work­ing dili­gently in the 223-square-me­tre rooftop gar­den. She’s dig­ging a small hole to plant a sun­flower hop­ing it will en­tice more bees or other in­sects to pol­li­nate.

It won’t be long be­fore the gar­den is lush and buzzing with ac­tiv­ity thanks in part to World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Canada’s Go Wild com­mu­nity grant ini­tia­tive.

Mo­hawk Col­lege was among more than 250 ap­pli­cants and will re­ceive $6,000 to put to­ward its Pol­li­na­tion Par­adise ini­tia­tive. What’s more, the col­lege was the only one in the coun­try to re­ceive the grant.

“It’s ex­cit­ing to work with a group like the World Wildlife Fund be­cause they’re a pro­gres­sive or­ga­ni­za­tion do­ing a lot to pro­tect and ed­u­cate peo­ple about the im­por­tance of our nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment,” said Alan Grif­fiths, man­ager of sus­tain­abil­ity at Mo­hawk.

Their goal is to in­crease the amount of pol­li­na­tors that visit all of the gar­dens on cam­pus, sup­port lo­cal food pro­duc­tion and help di­ver­sify the plant pop­u­la­tion while cre­at­ing a space to be used as a “learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment” for the staff, stu­dents and mem­bers of the com­mu­nity.

“They can visit the gar­den, they can learn about the plants, the im­por­tance of pol­li­na­tors in an ur­ban set­ting and the im­por­tance of green roofs,” said Grif­fiths.

They also plan to hire a part­time stu­dent to main­tain the gar­den and mon­i­tor pol­li­na­tor ac­tiv­ity.

Im­pressed with “their com­mit­ment to sus­tain­abil­ity” WWF’s Sarah Winterton, di­rec­tor of na­ture-con­nected com­mu­ni­ties, says Mo­hawk was se­lected based on the tim­ing of the ven­ture con­sid­er­ing the “is­sues of pol­li­na­tors and the stress on bees and other in­sects and their abil­ity to con­nect with the sur­round­ing com­mu­nity.”

“Given the stu­dent pop­u­la­tion and all the dif­fer­ent ways it con­nects with the com­mu­nity around it, it re­ally has the ca­pac­ity to help repli­cate the pro­ject in other house­hold gar­dens or other green spa­ces,” said Winterton.

“Mo­hawk is well-po­si­tioned to help carry for­ward this op­por­tu­nity to play a role in re-es­tab­lish­ing healthy pol­li­na­tor habi­tat.”

Ac­cord­ing to Winterton, there are 400 wild bee species in Eastern Canada. The rusty-patched bum­ble bee “used to pro­lif­er­ate in south­ern On­tario” but was added to On­tario’s list of species-at-risk in 2010.

“We want to play a role in strength­en­ing the con­nec­tion Cana­di­ans have to na­ture,” she said. “We need pol­li­na­tors as part of the vi­tal part of our food sys­tem.”

WWF gave out grants be­tween $1,000 and $7,000. Twenty other projects were suc­cess­ful — re­cip­i­ents in­cluded small non-govern­ment or­ga­ni­za­tions, com­mu­nity groups and in­di­vid­u­als.

The pro­gram launched in 2015 with more than $100,000 given out so far. Through the col­lege’s Sus­tain­abil­ity Ini­tia­tives Fund — a part­ner­ship with stu­dents — the col­lege matched WWF’s con­tri­bu­tion, bring­ing the to­tal in­vest­ment in the rooftop gar­den to $12,000.

About a dozen na­tive grasses and flow­ers will be planted over the next few weeks.

We want to play a role in strength­en­ing the con­nec­tion Cana­di­ans have to na­ture. SARAH WINTERTON WORLD WILDLIFE FUND

CATHIE COW­ARD, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Elisha Martin, com­mu­nity gar­den co-or­di­na­tor at Mo­hawk Col­lege, plants a sun­flower in one of the gar­dens of the rooftop Pol­li­na­tors Par­adise Pro­ject.

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