Sunrise-Machimodus State Park Memorial Garden intended to attract local species

EAST HADDAM – A long unused space has found purpose again after a local group created a garden that it hopes will allow pollinators, such as birds and butterflies, to flourish.

Tanya Bourgoin, president and co-founder of Friends of Sunrise-Machimoodus State Park, said the effort is part of a multi-year process to beautify parks and protect and help wildlife.

Ginger’s Garden, Bourgoin said, is named after one of the group’s founding members, who died three years ago from a battle with cancer. Ginger Tullai was an integral part of the project, she said.


“Without her there wouldn’t really be a group,” Bourgoin said. “It would’ve been just me. She was a great advocate for the garden, in addition to being a passionate environmentalist. When she passed away, we decided to make it her memorial garden.

In the spirit of Tullai’s mission, Bourgoin said the group decided to make the garden useful – as opposed to something just filled with pretty flowers.

“So we thought that creating a pathway for pollinators would be a good thing,” she said. “There are already quite a few wild flowers, especially milkweed, in the park. There are a lot of birds, butterflies and wild animals. We thought that planting species of plants that support these organisms would be the most beneficial way to carry out this project. “

Bourgoin said Machimoodus Park was once private land owned by Raymond Schmitt, noting that the state had taken over the property at the time of his death. She said he had a garden in the same place, which was bordered by rocks.

After finding a notice asking people to help with the cleanup, Bourgoin said, she went to a meeting where she met Tullai. The two agreed on a vision for the park: to let nature reclaim it while making it a recreational space for the community.

Bourgoin said that she and Tullai started doing research and eventually formed the non-profit organization. She said a lot of work has gone into it.

“By the time the state took it over and made the national park, it was no longer a garden, it was just a space full of bittersweet herbs and poison ivy… and a whole bunch of bottles. of pliers, ”Bourgoin said.

The group started out small, but grew over the years, she said, adding that they spent time cleaning up trash and other items. The invasive plants were a bit more difficult to remove, as Bourgoin did not want to use pesticides.

“It takes a while to get rid of the bittersweet and poison ivy and amend the soil,” she said. The efforts lasted two years. After that, says Bourgoin, they started to plant.

“Our big goal is, because we want to support pollinators, and because there is already milkweed and monarchs (butterflies) there, it would be great if it could be certified as a middle station.” Monarch via Monarch Watch. “

The agency is a volunteer-based citizen science organization that tracks the fall migration of monarchs.

This work is incredibly important because climate change has started to “cause the monarch butterfly to decline precipitously,” according to a Michigan State University study.

He cites the lack of rainfall as the main factor in the population decline. He notes that planting milkweed helps the species, but it may not be enough.

Monarch Watch has a very detailed list of what a location should be considered an intermediate station, Bourgoin said, adding that they encourage avoiding pesticides or power tools in the creation process because allowing things to grow. naturally there, while eliminating invasive plants.

It becomes “a beautiful habitat not only for butterflies, but for all pollinators,” she said. “This includes birds, other insects and animals. “

The Friends of Machimodus-Sunrise State Park are looking for donations and volunteers. Those interested can message them on Facebook for more details.

Tullai would be “absolutely delighted” with the progress of the project, Bourgoin said. “Now that we actually have plants in the soil and butterflies and bees and other things visiting those plants, I really believe she is smiling on this project.”

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