Goshen looks to sweeten deal for bees, butterflies with 47-acre environmental preserve
The sound of bees has become less and less common around the United States as the loss of prairie habitat and the continued use of pesticides has more than decimated their numbers over the past 20 years.
But Goshen is trying to reverse that trend by building a 47-acre wildlife sanctuary specifically designed to provide a habitat for endangered bees and butterflies. The sanctuary will go in on city land north of the Goshen airport and will feature a variety of prairie grass and flowers.
“We’re just restoring it back to what it was," said Alexa Kennel, an environmental specialist with AmeriCorps currently working with the city of Goshen on the project.
Kennel explained that species like bees and butterflies are vital to the ecosystem because they pollinate a wide variety of plants necessary for food products. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, $10 billion worth of crops each year depend on pollination.
“In an area where agriculture is a really big part of midwestern life and culture, we can’t just keep doing what we’re doing and expecting that pollinators will always be there, because that’s not realistic,” Kennel said. “ We’ve been taking and this is one way to give back.”
Plans for the sanctuary came together when the city purchased close to 75 acres of land north of the airport between County Road 27 and State Road 33 to build a new wellfield. Goshen’s director of environmental resilience Aaron Sawatsky-Kingsley said the wellfield didn’t require all of the land and discussions began on what could go into the unused 47 or so acres.
The project will cost close to $30,000, with half coming from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to seed the acreage and the rest provided by Goshen to monitor and upkeep the area as necessary.
Sawatsky-Kingsley added the sanctuary will save money because the land won’t need to be mowed.
“Instead of seeding this to turf grass and going out and mowing it once a week, paying for the people, the hours, the gasoline, paying in the future because of the emissions; all of that comes off the books as this emerges,” Sawatsky-Kingsley said.
Sometime over the winter, the planting process will begin. There will be some pruning and mowing over the next year and then a controlled burn in 2026 to help activate certain seeds and increase biodiversity.
As the newly created environment begins to take shape in the coming years, Kennel hopes other municipalities will rethink how they use vacant land.
“Why are we doing that? And what does it mean to make a different choice,” she said. “Look at what we did, here’s what it cost us. You could do it too and save some money.”
At some point in the future, Sawatsky-Kingsley hopes the city can install a public walking path through the preserve.