‘Marquette City Wildflowers’

The Lurie Garden in Chicago’s Millennium Park is an example of how native plants can be incorporated into a city landscape. A new initiative called Marquette City Wildflowers is underway, with volunteers and funding sought. (Journal photo by Christie Mastric)

MARQUETTE — Mowed green grass in street medians are the norm in many cities, but do they have to be?

Marquette resident Tony Boyle wants to change that.

Marquette City Wildflowers is the name of his burgeoning effort to make the area more environmentally friendly.

“It’s an initiative to convert what’s otherwise marginal or underutilized, unused space to native plants,” Boyle said. “It’s not limited to just wildflowers, but it would be site specific — like native flowers, native grasses, shrubs.”

Medians would be a focus, he said, because that’s where the initiative can make the “value pitch.”


For instance, these spots could be difficult to maintain with traditional landscaping, he said.

“I’m just focusing on the city of Marquette, but it’s really a whole bunch of different partners,” Boyle said. “I’m still waiting to hear back from the city itself.”

Spots he has identified as potentially being landscaped with native plants include the Commons, which has a hill by the parking area.

Boyle is impressed with Trestle Park, a native plant area and monarch butterfly waystation on the bike path behind the 300 block of West Washington Street.

“There’s such a variety,” he said.

That’s for sure. The park is home to plants such as blue flag iris, wild lupine, blue vervain and joe-pye-weed, and is along the multi-use path that walkers and bicyclists regularly use.

Other sites of particular interest to Boyle are transitional spaces such as boundary areas, especially those close to city parks and natural areas. Places that get a lot of “public interface” also are good choices, he said.

Boyle, in fact, is working on a proposal for the Michigan Welcome Center in Harvey to see if plants could be installed there.

“That would be a great spot because they have some underutilized planting beds,” Boyle said.

He indicated that no funds have been obtained yet for the initiative, noting that grants typically are for 501(c)(3) nonprofits.

He called Marquette City Wildflowers “just me and a ragtag bunch of different folks.”

“If someone wanted to step in as sort of a fiduciary sponsor, that would be pretty cool, but right now I think that the concept that I am most interested in getting out there is that we basically have these resources and can do it for really cheap, and that’s one of the appeals,” Boyle said. “We don’t have to purchase new sod, we don’t have to get deal with any chemical applications.

“It’s really just, we put down seeds, put in some starts and just start reinvigorating at least sections of the local ecology.”

That’s when the benefits of such plantings begin to take root, literally.

“Once these get established, then we get the benefits of better water retention,” Boyle said. “It will help with erosion, attract pollinators so we’ll get even more flowers all over the place.”

The Marquette County Conservation District already has recognized the role of pollinators in the ecosystem.

“Pollinators are responsible for one-third of the food we eat, and the best way to support pollinators is by creating habitat for them,” MCCD says on its website at www.marquettecd.com.

The initiative, however, will involve more than installing plants.

Pulling nuisance species from the sites, amending the soil and mulching would need to be performed as the garden spots are created, he said.

“And then just keeping an eye on it, keeping it watered,” Boyle said. “There’s quite a few different ways if people are interested in getting involved or if they just want to donate some plants to the cause, or any materials. Dirt’s always good.”

Boyle said volunteers also can “adopt” a space if they know of a particular spot they could maintain.

“This is something that is replicable, and I would be happy to talk with them about what my process has been, and maybe I can share templates and ideas of how to get that going,” Boyle said.

Potential volunteers may email tonyboylemi@gmail.com.

“The next steps are just getting everyone together to just hammer out the final details, the logistics, and then coordinating dates to starting digging around in the dirt,” Boyle said.


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