Helping nature reclaim its place in St. Paul

Submitted by Unity Church-Unitarian in St. Paul.

Our story starts with an observation of a bee. Not just any bee, but a bumblebee, a rusty-patched bumblebee. When Kathy found this bee along the Bruce Vento Trail near her St. Paul home, she began photographing bees in a quest to learn more about these endangered creatures, the foods they needed, the places they nested. She began collecting seeds to grow native plants, many of which she gave away to her Eastside St. Paul neighbors.

At Unity Church-Unitarian, she created a native plant garden to support the bees and other pollinators. She was always teaching about the importance of native plants and native pollinators, of not using pesticides, of leaving plant stems and leaf debris in place because that was where the queen bees overwintered. People joined her to help and to learn from her. By 2021, her garden crew had grown to 10 people who used their newfound knowledge to plant their own gardens, and thus word spread to their neighbors and to other churches. 

In 2021, 28 pollinator gardens were installed in places where monoculture lawns had been. Bit by bit, we are helping nature reclaim its place in our city. What started as one observation by one person has grown, like a pebble tossed into a pond, sending ripples outward to touch all of the Unity community, and our neighbors have noticed.

Much of this work happened during the COVID pandemic when masks and distancing left us longing for contact with others. With hands in the soil, people reconnected to the land and to each other in profound ways as they found purpose in the work and felt whole again … and were overjoyed when the bees came!

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