Earth Day Park
Earth Day Park Serves as a Vital Pollinator Oasis
Earth Day Park was originally dedicated on April 22, 1996, in a culmination of eﬀorts by the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. General Services Administration to transform a neglected, vacant lot into a green oasis. The park's most recent transformation occurred in 2014, when it was redesigned as a pollinator garden in response to a Presidential Memorandum creating a federal strategy to promote the health of honeybees and other pollinators. Many plants rely on pollinators for reproduction, including one third of food crops essential to our survival. This park is now a vital pollinator oasis and contains many plant species that are native to the Mid-Atlantic States.
All of Earth Day Park's plants serve multiple functions and provide habitat - food, water, and shelter - for native pollinators such as bees, wasps, ﬂies, birds, moths, and butterﬂies. Seasonal ﬂowering plants provide blossoms up to 10 months of the year. In addition, larval host plants provide food for newly hatched insects, while perennial plant species cover large swaths to allow pollinators to minimize energy spent seeking more food sources. The demonstration rain garden's plants provide stormwater management by collecting excess rain water and allowing it to slowly inﬁltrate the soil which cools and cleans the water.
Sustainable practices extend to plant maintenance in Earth Day Park. Trees and shrubs provide shade and cool the air, reducing the urban heat island eﬀect. Drought-tolerant plants reduce water demands in the garden beds.Perennial plants, which are common throughout the park, have lower maintenance costs than annual plants. No fossil fuels, herbicides, or pesticides are used to maintain the beds, which reduces air and noise pollution and creates a more enjoyable experience for visitors. Many of the fall leaves remain in the planting beds each year,creating less waste, protecting the soil from drought, and providing soil organisms with an essential food source.Perennials are not cut back until late winter so that overwintering pollinators are not harmed; the dried seed heads and berries provide food for both overwintering and migrating birds.
Earth Day Park is one garden, but it provides many beneﬁts. It may come as a surprise that so much life is present in such a shallow planting bed.