Cedar Rapids gets grant to support pollination program

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The city of Cedar Rapids has been awarded a $96,480 grant to support its pollination initiative.

The plan calls for converting 1,000 acres of unused, unproductive city and county property — mostly lawn that must be regularly mowed and sprayed at considerable expense, city officials said in a news release. It is to be turned into habitat for monarch butterflies and other pollinators.

The Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation Department, with private and public partners, is leading the five-year initiative to seed public land with a mix of native forbs, grasses, sedges and wildflowers.

Initiated by Cedar Rapids and the Monarch Research Project, the effort includes the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation, Linn County and the cities of Marion and Hiawatha.

Besides benefiting pollinators, the plantings are intended to make the land more absorbent, helping to improve water quality and reduce erosion and flash flooding.

The grant, given by Resource Enhancement and Protection — or REAP, is being used to buy native pollinator seed, herbicide for site preparation and contract labor for seed drill installation. The money is to pay for the conversion next year of 82 acres of nonproductive land to native prairie habitat within the Sac and Fox Natureway. Educational signs and mowed walking trails are to provide enhanced recreation and educational opportunities.

The project aims to meet federal, state and local goals for pollinator habitat restoration and protection of natural resources. It addresses a decline nationally and statewide of pollinator key species and their habitat.

REAP invests in projects that enhance and protect Iowa’s natural and cultural resources. Fifteen percent of REAP funds are set aside for grants to cities for projects that help establish natural areas, encourage outdoor recreation and resource management.

In its 27 years, REAP has invested $250 million in more than 15,000 projects in every county in Iowa, with at least twice that amount contributed in private, local and federal money.

The city of Cedar Rapids has used REAP funding for projects that have included riverfront restoration at the McGrath Amphitheatre and the purchase of property along Wilson Avenue SW to be protected as green space for further park development.

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