Postal service offers meeting on future of Naperville pollinator garden
Conservationists concerned about the future of a prairie garden outside the Naperville post office on Ogden Avenue say they're optimistic a meeting with the postmaster could protect it.
U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman Beverly Howard said Thursday the agency plans to schedule a meeting with gardeners to discuss "plans for the Naperville landscape" once Postmaster Michael Young returns July 5. A date has not yet been chosen.
Volunteer gardener Carolyn Finzer said she is hopeful the plants she has tended for the past 10 years can stay in place, helping the environment by absorbing and filtering runoff and attracting pollinators such as the state's official insect, the monarch butterfly.
"I am very much an advocate for prairie gardens and this type of restoration," Finzer said. "The future of pollinators depends on gardens like this."
At issue with the garden spanning roughly 260 feet near the entrance to the building at 1750 W. Ogden Ave. is the height of some plants and the appearance of others, prairie advocates say.
Finzer said some people prefer formal and orderly gardens with plants evenly spaced and meticulously trimmed. Prairies aren't for them, she said, because they are wavy and flowing, with seedlings popping up each year as they're spread by the birds or the breezes.
Some growth in the post office garden, such as the Silphium perfoliatum known as the "cup plant," could violate a height limit the postal service imposes near entrances, Finzer said. Other plants, such as milkweed, might not look traditionally beautiful year-round, but they serve as a powerful monarch magnet.
Jim Kleinwachter, program manager with The Conservation Foundation in Naperville, said he knows techniques to keep these prairie environmental benefits while removing some aesthetic concerns. He said he wants to present a plan to the postal service, incorporating shorter plants in more organized clumps, in exchange for permission to keep the garden in place.
Kleinwachter said he's encouraged the postal service is "not dead-set on rototilling the whole thing down," especially as it is one of about 85 sites certified by his organization's Conservation@Work program for providing environmental benefits.
But he also wants to ask the agency to take responsibility for maintenance of the landscape, so volunteers like Finzer and others don't have to handle it all.
Finzer, 70, said she and another volunteer spent 90 minutes Wednesday evening removing an invasive, rash-inducing species and keeping the growth in good health. She's prepared to continue looking after the space, even if that means finding new homes for some plants the postal service may want removed.
"It is an ongoing challenge for me," she said. "It is a commitment for me to continue this."