A pollinator habitat has sprung up in a former auto junkyard on the banks of the Wabash River, creating a space for butterflies, bees, birds, bats and small mammals.

More than 4,500 flowers and native grasses are now growing on the eastern banks of the Wabashiki Fish and Wildlife Area due to a $20,000 grant from Duke Energy and the efforts of the Vigo County Parks and Recreation Department.

“What an opportunity for Vigo County and Terre Haute to be able to come out of downtown Terre Haute, ride your bike down here, visit this pollinator planting, see the wetlands, go to Dewey Point. What an awesome trail system for the Vigo County parks system,” said county parks Superintendent Adam Grossman on Wednesday morning as the site was previewed to county officials and supporters of the Riverscape organization.

“The mileage that monarchs have to fly every year going from Canada to Mexico, this gives them somewhere to stop by to give them the food they need to survive,” Grossman said.

Located in Dresser just off Indiana 150, the nature area is an ongoing project being coordinated with a pedestrian bridge across the Wabash River and a trail along the highway to the Dewey Point access of Wabashiki.

Old junkyard yields beautiful mileage

Tribune-Star/Joseph C. GarzaA new purpose: Adam Grossman, center, talks about the benefits of the new pollinator habitat on the eastern banks of the Wabashiki Fish and Wildlife Area on Wednesday. The area was once home to an abandoned junkyard.

A raised bed bordered by about 1,600 retaining wall blocks contains about 20 different plant species including milkweek, ironweed, prairie sundrops, conflowers, asters, sunflowers and a variety of grasses.

Jeremy Stakeman of Cheapscapes landscaping said the plants will reach eight feet high with yellow, purple, blue and white flowers blooming from mid-spring through the summer months.

The grasses won’t flower but will provide a cover for the butterflies and insects to rest. The tall grass will also support the taller flowers, Stakeman said.

His crew spent about 27 hours over two days planting the huge raised bed.

Grossman said Phase 2 of the project will include a 10-foot wide asphalt walkway around the property.

Additional work will involve clearing brush to provide a view of the Wabashiki wetlands from the east looking west.

Sen. Jon Ford (R-Terre Haute) has pushed for the connector trail from Terre Haute to West Terre Haute.

“This will be a great addition for people to come across the river from Terre Haute to view the butterfly garden and then go on to Dewey Point,” Ford said.

Rick Burger, district manager for Duke Energy, said the project is an exciting environmental development that cleaned up a junkyard and benefits the community.

Michael Shaw of Riverscape said the completion of the project next year will mean a safe trail for people to run, walk and ride bicycles across the river from Terre Haute to Wabashiki and into West Terre Haute.

Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or at lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter at TribStarLisa.

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