Pollinator project underway

Mary Ehly, left, and Mila Niemi work to place native plants attractive to pollinators, the first phase of the Pollinator Restoration Project underway along the 25-mile stretch of Highway 101 from the Yaquina Bay Bridge to the Lane County line. The first phase of the Pollinator Restoration Project, the latest effort by Concerned Citizens for Clean Air, was completed last month. The project plans for 18 additional plots of land along Highway 101 to be planted in native plants attractive to pollinators.

First step complete north of the Alsea Bay Bridge

LINCOLN COUNTY — The Pollinator Restoration Project is the latest endeavor of the Concerned Citizens for Clean Air, a local group formed in 2007. 

“We wanted the entire Oregon coast to stop using herbicides because of the ocean proximity, as well as human health aspects,” Maxine Centala explained. The group’s mission was to address concerns about pollution from the mill in Toledo, backyard burning of yard waste and herbicide spray, she said.

While the entire coast is not yet free of herbicide application, the group took action — the 25-mile stretch of Highway 101 from the Yaquina Bay Bridge to the Lane County line has not been sprayed with herbicide for the last 14 years. That effort is a pilot project Centala hopes to see expanded. 

The group’s current effort helps pollinators as it beautifies that stretch of highway. An agreement was formed between the Oregon Department of Transportation and Lincoln County, with Concerned Citizens for Clean Air installing native plants in 19 locations along the no-spray corridor.

 “Over the years, we really improved the roadside, both in terms of native plants coming back and wildflowers increasing,” she said. There was more life and beauty along the road after the herbicide stopped and the noxious weeds were removed. The group wanted to build on that, taking on the task of replanting the area with native plant species that are attractive to pollinators.

“We all know the pollinators are in trouble,” Centala said. The first phase of the Pollinator Restoration Project was completed last month when the group planted 273 native plants to benefit pollinators just north of the Alsea Bay Bridge near Minor Park Road.

“When we started working for the pollinators, we got more volunteers,” Centala observed. People like bugs and bees, she pointed out, and they love flowers.

The group was invigorated by the pollinator project. It became a more positive and fun endeavor than simply pulling noxious weeds, Centala said. “The response from people as we’re working planting at that site has been tremendous. People driving on the side road stop and talk to us and cheer us on for what we’re doing.”

The effort was the first planting in the pollinator corridor, the first of 19 designated plots along the 25-mile no spray zone where the group will plant such native plants as Nootka rose, red flowering currant, yarrow, goldenrod, creeping Oregon Grape, aster, centella and kinnikinnick. Prunella is sometimes viewed as a weed, Centala said, but the bees love the blue flowers.

Native pollinators the group works to support include bumblebees, sweat bees, leaf cutter bees, flower flies or hover flies, some wasps, butterflies and some beetles, and birds — rufous and Anna’s hummingbirds.

While the group hoped to get a large amount of grant money and hire a restoration company to do the planting, that hasn’t happened, and the pandemic has made progress challenging.

“We have hired the Lincoln County Corrections crew, and they have done great work for us,” Centala said. Prior to the pandemic, Concerned Citizens for Clean Air members were active in the community, attending farmers markets and events, providing education as well as soliciting donations to help the efforts to create the pollinator corridor.

“Robert and Diana Purdy, of Seal Rock, and their son Jarrett … have done the lion’s share of all the work along the highway,” Centala said. “They took it on as their family project.”

The group received contributions from the cities of Newport, Waldport and Yachats, as well as the Lincoln County Commissioners, she noted.

The group welcomes volunteers for their next planting effort, which will be south of the Yaquina Bay Bridge — the dates are yet to be determined. Those wishing to learn more about Concerned Citizens for Clean Air and their current Pollinator Restoration Project can contact Centala at [email protected]

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