OpEd – Psst, do you want to know a secret?

Moultrie News
By Judy Dunbar

You are cordially invited to visit the “secret” Butterfly Garden tucked away next to Mount Pleasant’s Marsh View Trail, which is part of 57 acres permanently protected via a conservation easement held by East Cooper Land Trust. It’s located down a winding road between the Mount Pleasant Waterworks (MPW) on 1619 Rifle Range Rd. and behind the Whitesides Elementary School. Although the habitat is somewhat hidden, the trip is well worth the effort since it also includes a dog park, a canopy of old oaks, Wax Myrtles, Long Leaf Pines and Yaupon Hollies. Plus, a quarter-mile paved path leads you to an expansive view of the marsh and salt flats. So, bring along your best friend and the two of you (or more) will enjoy nature at its finest.

During the spring of 2012, East Cooper Land Trust partnered with several local groups and individuals, including famed Lowcountry author Mary Alice Monroe, to create a beautiful Butterfly Garden at the beginning of the Marsh View Trail. The goal was to not only attract butterflies to the area but provide a learning opportunity for those interested in butterflies and their habitat. Through example, their goal continues to focus on how specific native plants can be used for hosting (laying eggs) or feeding (providing nectar) butterflies, moths and hummingbirds. All agree that support for our little pollinator friends is important for survival.

Since January 2017, care for the garden has been initiated by friends and family of Jackie Ashbaugh, plus Master Gardeners. Meeting most Wednesday mornings, the like-minded volunteers get together to identify existing plants, introduce new ones, prune bushes, and contain those that spread, along with the continuous digging and raking. Weeds had been an enormous problem, particularly since butterflies can’t tolerate chemical control. Newspapers, cardboard and mulch were put down to cover those areas to remediate the problem – with great success. Volunteers have also powerwashed the benches and arbors, painted the Information Board and supplied laminated information cards about southeastern birds and butterflies. Along with their time, contributions included spring bulbs, and Canna Lilies, Society Garlic, Yarrow, and Echinacea divisions, plus Mexican sunflowers from their own gardens to enhance the environment. Future hopes consist of developing a compost area and adding native grasses and plants to add protection for our pollinators on a year-round basis.

Support for the garden comes from a variety of sources. MPW supplies our water (drip lines were replaced with more efficient low-pressure irrigation heads) and hauls away our debris on an as needed basis. Mount Pleasant Tree Service provided free mulch for our pathway. Both the Native Plant Society and the Master Gardener’s Board contributed much appreciated funds in the form of grants.

As well as providing a refuge to our pollinator friends, people ranging in age from the very young to the elderly enjoy the garden. Whitesides Elementary School students, having observed the metamorphosis of Monarchs in their classroom, come to the habitat for the final stage to watch as the chrysalides split open, butterflies emerge, dry, harden and spread their wings before flying away. Another day, a Brownie Troop created basking rocks for the pollinators. Later, families arrived for a tour and left with Milkweed to plant in their own gardens. And finally, it’s been rewarding to watch seniors saunter through this natural setting. Future endeavors include The Butterfly Fling, sponsored by the East Cooper Land Trust, to be held in October.

As you can see, there’s no excuse for you (and your friends) not to visit this little oasis and enjoy one of Mount Pleasant’s best-kept secrets.

– Host Plants – Parsley, Fennel, Dill, Milkweed, Willow, Passion Vine, Yellow Senna, Carrot, Pipe vine, Spice Bush, Snap Dragon, Verbena and Asters

– Nectar Plants – Pentas, Lantana, Vitex, Plumbago, Echinacea, Salvia, Butterfly Bush, Coreopsis, Zinnias, Dianthus, Gaura and Mexican sunflowers

East Cooper Land Trust holds 4th annual Meeting for Mayors Council on Land Conservation

Moultrie News
Highlighting how all the municipalities in East Cooper are connected by nature and the growing demand by citizens to safely access those natural spaces, East Cooper Land Trust held the 4th annual meeting for the Mayors Council on Land Conservation in the new Mount Pleasant Town Hall on April 24th. Rut Leland, Mayor of McClellanville, reflected, “It’s great to see the municipalities working together to conserve land, and more specifically those lands that protect our local food economy.”

As these communities continue to grow and see the effects of increased development, people increasingly look to their elected leaders to protect the wildlife habitats, scenic vistas, cultural points of interest and local food sources in and around their communities. Public awareness over environmental issues, such as living shorelines, stormwater issues and the importance of trees and buffers, is growing. Municipalities are searching for answers but sometimes need to partner with other organizations for the most effective solutions. Catherine Main, Executive Director of East Cooper Land Trust says, “We want to work with the mayors to make conservation decisions lasting. Municipal decisions can be adjusted with a new administration. As a non-profit land trust, we have the ability to hold conservation easements on land that make conservation decisions permanent.”

East Cooper Land Trust has been working on important initiatives, with support from the municipalities, such as the East Cooper Trail which will connect the Cooper to the Santee river through safe walking and biking trails. The land trust cannot do their work without the support of the municipalities, but in turn the organization provides important tools to support the municipalities in park and trail planning as well as cultural preservation. This annual gathering is a great venue for the mayors to participate in meaningful conversation and healthy competition regarding how they can continue to support conservation for the benefit of their residents.

This year Michael Messner spoke to the group of mayors and planning staff about his experience promoting green spaces. Mike and his wife, Jenny, founded the Speedwell Foundation, which takes a vision for beauty, for enhancing common life by connecting people with nature and with each other, and strategically plants it. The Messners have supported East Cooper Land Trust and invested in other area greenspace projects since moving here in 2011, such as the Lowcountry LowLine.

After citing several examples of cities investing in their green spaces and sharing data from research in Houston, Atlanta and other places, Messner commented, “No one ever looked back and said to themselves, I’m so glad I built that highway. But people do say – I’m so glad I got that park built. It’s a legacy that has some great long-term benefits for the community – kids, families, everybody.”

Originally formed in 2015 by East Cooper Land Trust, the Mayors Council on Land Conservation in East Cooper includes Mayor Jimmy Carroll of the City of Isle of Palms, Mayor Miriam Green of the Town of Awendaw, Mayor Will Haynie of the Town of Mount Pleasant, Mayor Rut Leland of the Town of McClellanville, Mayor Pat O’Neil of the Town of Sullivan’s Island, Chairman Vic Rawl of Charleston County Council and Mayor John Tecklenburg of the City of Charleston. This year’s meeting was sponsored by MUSC Health.

East Cooper Land Trust is a community-supported nonprofit organization devoted to conserving natural spaces, thus the quality of life for current and future generations.

Source: Moultrie News

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