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'Bee Friendly Williamstown' is kicking off a series of events to education residents about pollinators this Sunday, Oct. 1.

Grant Helps Spread the 'Bee Friendly Williamstown' Buzz

By Rebecca DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The town has received a $9,120 grant from the Toxics Use Reduction Institute at University of Massachusetts at Lowell to further its efforts to become "Bee Friendly Williamstown."

Last May, Williamstown residents approved a non-binding resolution declaring the town a pollinator-friendly community. The resolution seeks to change residential and institutional landscaping practices by promoting ways to reduce the use of pesticides and herbicides that scientists believe are killing bee populations.

Building on that, the town has partnered with several local organizations - Caretaker Farm, the Clark Art Institute, Images Cinema, Sam and Elizabeth Smith, South the Williamstown Community Association, Williams College, the Williams Inn, the Williamstown Garden Club, Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation, and Willinet — to present a series of events to raise awareness of the importance of pollinators.

The grant and its related programming will be coordinated by Bridget Spann of Caretaker Farm and Selectwoman Anne O'Connor, who gave an overview of their plans on Monday afternoon during a news conference at Town Hall. The two stressed the dual goals of the program: to draw awareness to the importance of pollinators while at the same time advocating for reduced pesticide use.

"Studies are showing a connection between these chemicals and pollinator declines," O'Connor said. "It's important for people to realize the importance of all of our native pollinators. They all play a role in pollination and biodiversity."

One of the easiest things homeowners can do is mow their lawns less often to leave more grass and flowers available for these pollinators, but that will take time, they acknowledged.

"It would be great if we can change the narrative to get away from the idea of what an ideal lawn is," O'Connor said.

Further, they hope to show the link between helping the pollinators and protecting our own food supply and well-being.

"How will our health benefit from reduced exposure to chemicals, for people and pets?" Spann said.

The grant will kick off with two events on Sunday, Oct. 1. At 1 p.m. at Hopkins Forest, Williams College biology professor Joan Edwards will present her research on "Managing Meadows to Maximize Flowers," including a walk to the meadow where her work has been done. Following that, from 2 to 4 p.m., eight area homeowners will offer tours of their "unique and out-of-the-box" gardens. Visitors will learn tips on pollinator-friendly, pesticide-free gardening that aim to create a healthy and nourishing environment for family, pets and pollinators alike.

Other upcoming programs include training programs for landscape professionals and homeowners and educational opportunities for adults and children alike, including a video to be made by middle-school children. Information will be available on the town's website as well as a special Facebook page for "Bee Friendly Williamstown."

O'Connor and Spann said they hope these events will spur conversations with other people around the area, and they hope to build on this year's grant moving forward by continuing to promote initiatives already under way — like the beehives on the roof of the Manton Research Center at the Clark Art Institute or research being down by the Center for Environmental Science at Williams College.

"Some of it is building on community efforts that began before the grant and hopefully will continue after," Spann said. "There's hope that some of the permanancy will be changes we're willing to make as a community."

Town Manager Jason Hoch said the town, which is administering the grant, likes to see these kinds of organic — if you will — movements of community-directed change, as opposed to government forcing new laws on a community. As such, he said, he is completely behind this project to provide "additional information and additional education" following the May town meeting resolution.

"This is a great logical step," he said. "This is really good to help the community."


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