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Lake Charleston Pollinators 08/24/18 (2)

Scott Gossett, with the City of Charleston and Pheasants Forever, trims an area at a butterfly and pollinator plot at Lake Charleston on Friday.

CHARLESTON -- Efforts have been made to update and upgrade the area around the trail system at Lake Charleston for humans, but local groups along with city also have recently taken steps to retain a natural habitat for the wildlife in the area.

The city has made efforts over the past few years to revitalize the plant ecosystem around the lake that before went largely unchecked, but this newer initiative focuses on creating specific habitats for wildlife in the areas.

The most recent development can be seen along the edge of the parking lot near the lake pavilion. The city, in partnership with the Lincoln Heritage Pheasants Forever chapter, the Urban Butterfly Initiative and EIU's Earthwise group, has developed a "butterfly city" as Paul Switzer, butterfly initiative director and founder, described it.

Here, the area has been seeded with more than 25 largely native species of plant, all of which are designed to attract and to be a haven for pollinators like the butterfly and the bee.

The ground was seeded in May, and since then, butterflies and other species have quickly taken to the space.

"If you plant it, they will come," Switzer said. "We have planted it and we have got nectar sources out here already."

The project started even earlier with Pheasants Forever, the city and later the Urban Butterfly Initiative designing and planning out a seed mixture for the spot.

Pheasants Forever provided the seed with funds garnered through fundraisers like their upcoming banquet Sept. 8 at the Mattoon Eagles.

Pheasant Forever chapter representative Brandon Beltz said the local chapter took on the project partly to play a more visible hand in habitat restoration efforts in the area. The group often takes on work on and around farmland deep in the country.

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They have also provided funding and support to the development of a couple of the habitat projects at the Douglas-Hart Nature Center, but Hank Pauls, chapter treasurer, said this was one of the more visible projects of theirs, which he said served a dual purpose of educating locals visually of habitats in the area and creating a habitat for these species.

Beltz said this will hopefully spark interest in people doing this in their backyards.

While such an effort is seemingly out of their wheelhouse, Beltz said the group is a habitat group first and foremost, and this is habitat, albeit not one catered to quail and pheasants specifically.

"We are tied to a bird... but we are a habitat organization and this is habitat," Beltz said. "Our mission is to prompt wildlife habitat...so this kind of ties into this."

Beltz expects rabbits and other small animals to make their way to this habitat as well.

The summer planting was only the first step for the project. Switzer said the butterfly initiative along with Earthwise will be planting more species in September that are expected to thrive next summer. Switzer noted the habitat project will be ongoing.

Beyond the parking lot's edge, similar plots will also be developed at the Woodyard Conservation area, the Charleston Carnegie Public Library and the Lincoln Prairie Grass Trail over the course of the next year. Charleston City Planner Steve Pamperin said this habitat restoration initiative, a partnership between these organizations and others like Ameren, will bring life to about 20 acres of habitat ground.

More information on the fundraising banquet to help fund this project can be obtained by calling 217-232-5314.

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Contact Jarad Jarmon at (217) 238-6839. Follow him on Twitter: @JJarmonReporter

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Reporter

Jarad Jarmon is a reporter for the JG-TC. He covers the city of Charleston, Eastern Illinois University, Mattoon schools and the Regional Office of Education.

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