Poolside Pollinators

By Abby Daniel & George Masson

The creation of the Poolside Pollinator Garden came from a shared appreciation and desire to care for nature between ourselves and our fellow Southeast Como neighbors. Being graduates of the Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology program at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities, we both have a strong interest in environmental restoration, especially in urban areas where wildlife habitat has become severely limited.

As a result of volunteering at various events of the Southeast Como Improvement Association (SECIA; our local neighborhood organization), 

Abby Daniel & George Masson

especially those planned and coordinated by long-time community member and pollinator garden champion Lila Smith, we felt compelled to contribute our own efforts to introduce native pollinator habitat to our neighborhood. In January of 2023, while sitting on a Zoom call with members of the SECIA’s Environment Committee, we hatched a plan to apply for a University of Minnesota Good Neighbor Fund grant. Relying on extensive help and expertise from friends and neighbors like Lila, we submitted our grant proposal in the Spring of 2023.

In June, we were awarded the funds for our project, and in July we successfully built and planted the garden in Van Cleve Park with the help of many folks from the neighborhood. The most labor-intensive day of the effort consisted of removing sod and shoveling out many wheelbarrows of soil to shape the garden, which would have been impossible if not for the devoted work of many dedicated volunteers who showed up to do their part. Following the removal of sod, others helped with putting plants into the ground (over 300 of them) and assisted with maintenance of the garden throughout the summer. 

The beautiful murals painted on the pool shed next to the Poolside Pollinator Garden were the result of serendipitous work on the part of the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board (MPRB). The murals, an effort of the MPRB to reduce graffiti, were created by local artist Constanza Carballo, and were not originally planned as part of this project. In fact, it was not until immediately before work began at the location that we learned of the additional art to the pool shed. The murals have added an undefinable amount of beauty and joy to the Poolside Pollinator Garden, enhancing the impact this project has on people and nature. In acknowledgment of the many monarch butterflies that have already been spotted visiting the blooming flowers in the garden, Constanza added a depiction of a monarch to one of the mural walls. This coincidental occurrence of art and nature has proven very meaningful for us, as Costanza’s previous work has aimed to tell the story of migrant children at the southern border by depicting them as monarchs.

Garden volunteers work alongside pollinators in front of Constanza’s mural in Van Cleve Park

Witnessing so many people give their time and energy to the creation of the garden and already seeing pollinators benefit from the added habitat is an incredibly rewarding experience. We are both entirely grateful for the continued efforts of community members in the Southeast Como neighborhood to increase the footprint of native pollinator habitat, and we would like to thank the support, knowledge, and guidance of fellow SECIA members. Their tireless efforts have brought this garden and others into existence, and we look forward to watching the Poolside Pollinator Garden continue to bloom and grow.


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