Hillsborough, NC – 2017 Annual Report

Enhancing Pollinator Health & Habitat

In the Spring of 2017, the Town of Hillsborough contracted a local landscape architect to plant pollinator-friendly native plants in an existing parking lot, referred to as the Bank of America parking lot due to its proximity to the bank drive-through. The parking lot was redesigned to add landscape islands and ADA compliant parking spaces in 2016. The contractor worked in coordination with Town of Hillsborough Public Space Manager to select pollinator-friendly plants that could stand up to the harsh parking lot conditions. Tree Board members volunteered to water the new landscaping through the warm weather months.

Also, in the Spring of 2017 the Hillsborough Garden Club volunteered to plant a pollinator-friendly kitchen garden in a landscape area that was previously grass.  The Garden Club developed a design and presented it for approval to the Hillsborough Tree Board. Plants were donated by Garden Club and Tree Board members.  Adjacent restaurants can harvest herbs from the garden.

In late spring, the Public Space Division installed 18 planters in downtown Hillsborough.  The planters range in size from 18” x 24” to 48” x 48”.  Pollinator-friendly perennials were added to the new planters as well as several existing planters in the downtown area.  The plants are cared for by Town of Hillsborough staff with watering support from volunteers.

In April 2017, the Public Space Division worked in coordination with the Stormwater and Environmental Services Division to retrofit an existing stormwater swale in Cates Creek Park.  The swale was originally filled with large chucks of rip rap and was installed adjacent to a play area.  Staff redesigned the area as a linear rain garden and planted the garden with pollinator-friendly trees, shrubs, and perennials. The plants were installed as part of a volunteer workday.  Over 25 volunteers, including all ages, showed up to help plant and water the new garden.  Tree Board members continued to water the new garden when needed over the warm weather months.

The Hillsborough Tree Board partnered with the Tourism Development Authority and Orange County Arts Commission to raise $3000 in funds for an artist fee to build and install a large-scale bee hotel in Gold Park along the Riverwalk greenway, which is part of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. An RFP was issued in June 2017 and the selection committee awarded the project to local artist and carpenter David Hinkle.  David Hinkle worked for three months to research and build the bee hotel.  The project marries public art to environmental stewardship and raises awareness about the important role of native bees and the loss of habitat due to degradation and development. The Bee Hotel was unveiled on November 4, 2017 to a crowd of nearly 200.  Mayor Tom Stevens spoke about the importance of art and environmental stewardship in Hillsborough.   Tree Board and Garden Club members set up informational tables and handed out brochures on a range of topics from sustainable landscape practices, native pollinator-friendly plant lists and local resources.  Tree Board member Karen MacAulay dressed in costume as a bee and handed out honey sticks and temporary bee tattoos. Town staff helped attendees make antenna headbands as a craft project.  The event was covered extensively in the local press and was a huge success.  Several other municipalities and schools have contacted the town about the project with hopes to build their own bee hotels.

On November 4, 2017, after the Bee Hotel unveiling, a public workshop was offered to teach attendees how to build a bee house.  Local carpenter and Parks and Recreation Board member, Noah Mace, volunteered to supply materials and tools for dozens of bee houses.  He also led the workshop which included more than 50 participants.  Attendees built the houses and stocked them with materials like river reed, bamboo, pine cones etc. Paint was also available from the Orange County Arts Commission for people who wanted to further personalize their houses.  Many attendees took their bee houses home but some were donated to the town and will be installed on the Riverwalk greenway.

Policies & Practices

In 2017, the Town of Hillsborough updated its Grounds Maintenance contract to include language about limiting the use of herbicides.  There are some circumstances where the use of products like Round Up are unavoidable but they are much reduced under the new contract.  The new contract includes the following language:

Weed Control

Contractor is responsible for keeping all designated mow and landscape maintenance areas and adjacent walkways free of weeds. Contractor sequence of control shall be 1) the use of organic mulches on the soil surface, 2) manual labor and controls,3) herbicide application (only when approved).

Chemical Regulations

No pesticides or herbicides will be used in landscaped or lawn areas without prior written approval from the Project Contact for the Client. All chemicals shall be used in strict accordance with federal, state, county, and local laws and regulations. Any use of chemicals shall be reported to the Client and applied by trained and licensed pest control operators. A North Carolina Class L Pesticide License is required for all pesticide applications. It is the intent of the Client to maintain a healthy, sustainable landscape that will minimize the need for and use of chemical controls.

Education & Outreach

The Town of Hillsborough Public Space Division had a Bee City sign fabricated as well as an informational sign to describe the newly installed Bee Hotel in Gold Park.  The sign explains Hillsborough’s commitment to pollinators through the Bee City campaign. It also provides information about the importance of native bees in North Carolina and the partnership to provide the Bee Hotel as habitat for native bees in Hillsborough. The signs were installed adjacent to the Bee Hotel in Gold Park adjacent to the Riverwalk greenway which is part of the NC Mountains-to-Sea trail.

Garden Club members Sarah Meadows and Phyllis Simon, on behalf of the Town of Hillsborough, attended the Bee City Conference April 3-6, 2017 at Sanctuary in the Pines at Highland Lake Cove in Flat Rock, NC.  The conference offered a three-day intensive train-the trainer hands-on workshop for Bee City affiliates.  Sarah and Phyllis gained extensive knowledge at the event and returned to Hillsborough ready to share their experiences. They attended the April 19, 2017 Tree Board meeting to provide an update on their conference activities and share their experiences and ideas.

On April 28, 2017, the Tree Board set up an informational table at the Hillsborough Last Fridays Event; a street festival in downtown Hillsborough sponsored by the Hillsborough Arts Council.  The event runs from 5:30-8:00pm and includes a free music festival and crafts, games, and informational tables.  Tree Board members provided information about the role of pollinators in overall environmental health as well as specifics about best practices for landscape maintenance and where to purchase native pollinator-friendly plants.  Tree Board also invited the Orange County Beekeepers Association to set up an adjacent table to provide information about their efforts to promote and protect honeybees.  The event was well attended and many people visited the table to talk to Tree Board members and Orange County Beekeepers about pollinators.

On July 19, 2017 the Hillsborough Tree Board celebrated National Pollinator Week (albeit a bit late) with a field trip to the Chatham Mills Pollinator Garden.  The Tree Board asked Chatham County Cooperative Extension Agent and local pollinator hero Debbie Roos to provide a tour of the garden.  They originally planned to visit in June during Pollinator Week but had to delay the trip to meet Debbie’s’ schedule. The garden at Chatham Mills is well established and Debbie provided incredible insight on topics ranging from garden design and maintenance to scheduling volunteer workdays.  The Tree Board spent 2 ½ hours touring the garden and speaking with Debbie Roos.  Much of the information received that day has been incorporated into maintenance practices and Bee City outreach efforts this past year. The Tree Board is interested in making additional trips to see the Chatham Mills Pollinator Garden as it changes through the seasons.

The Gold Park Pollinator Garden is maintained by the Orange County Master Gardener Program, a program of the Orange County Center of the N.C. Cooperative Extension. Volunteer workdays occur the first Thursday of the month between 8 and 11 am, March through October. This year volunteers weeded, mulched, and pruned in the garden. They also took soil samples to determine how recent floods affected the soil quality of the garden. The results showed that the 4-year-old section of garden is high in phosphorus and that the newly expanded area was very low in the nutrient. Volunteers added bone meal to the new section during the workday to help the plants in that area absorb the micronutrients which help with growth. There were 9 regular volunteers who spent 96 hours contributing to garden maintenance.

The Hillsborough Tree Board worked throughout the year to collect materials and network with other organizations to protect and promote pollinators.  They collected educational materials from various local and statewide organizations and developed plant lists and recommendations to share with Hillsborough residents. These materials are collected and stored in the Town of Hillsborough Public Space Division to be utilized at future events.

The Public Space Division worked extensively with the Public Information Office to promote Bee City initiatives and projects throughout the year.  Attendance at events exceeded expectations due in part to the excellent press and social media campaigns contributed by the Public information Office.

We look forward to new initiatives in 2018 and continuing this important work.

Local Website & Contact Information

Questions? Contact Stephanie Trueblood, Hillsborough Public Space Manager at 919-296-9481 or Stephanie.trueblood@hillsboroughnc.gov.

Bee City USA – Hillsborough

Serving as the local Bee City USA committee,  the Hillsborough Tree Board meets the 2nd Wednesday of every month at 9:00 am. Board members are Andrea Lewis, Frances Harris, Casey Collins, George Campbell, Tim Logue, Bryan Stuart, Liz Waters, and Greg Yavelak.

The Hillsborough Tree Board also coordinates Bee City Initiatives with the Hillsborough Garden Club.  The Garden Club has formed a Bee City subcommittee identified two members who are specifically tasked with supporting and promoting Bee City projects, Sara Meadows and Phyllis Simon.  These members are volunteers and do not serve on the Tree Board but nonetheless are dedicated and active participants to Bee City initiatives.