Park restoration group seeks volunteers

Eastern tiger swallowtail butterflies are among the many native species that benefit from native plants.

Friends of the Walt is a volunteer organization of University Heights residents who are beautifying and maintaining the Walter Stinson Community Park on Fenwick Road, to benefit people and wildlife. Mayor Michael Dylan Brennan organized a volunteer workday last August, after which several participants decided to form an organization to continue the effort.

Bird and insect populations and diversity have declined over the last century, especially the last 30 years, due to habitat loss and fragmentation (unlinked patches of undeveloped land), climate change, pesticide use, and pollution. Invasive exotic plant species have started to dominate natural parklands here in Northeast Ohio. There is a growing national movement to start restoring communities and yards to ecological health.

Planting native species encourages a resurgence of native beneficial insects, including bees, moths, and butterflies such as the painted lady, red admiral, buckeye, mourning cloak and monarch. More native insects and invertebrates will in turn bring back native bird species.

Volunteers have created a restoration plan for the garden based on the original blueprints, and plan to install educational signage. They are removing plants on Ohio’s noxious-weed list (bull thistle, bindweed, buckthorn, cleavers) and replacing them with bird- and pollinator-friendly species.

Please join them for continued weeding and preparation on Saturdays in April, 9–11 a.m. Wear long sleeves and bring gloves and weeding tools. Volunteers observe safe social distancing, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and ask that all participants respect one another’s safety.

The 2021 work season will comprise cleanup, weeding and planting preparation in April; a spring planting event in May; garden care and preparation for fall planting in June, July and August; and a fall planting event in September. Removal of invasive plants, shrubs and trees will continue through November.     

Friends of the Walt is open to all interested people (adults and supervised children), regardless of residency. To sign up, or for more information, visit, or just stop by on a Saturday at 9 a.m.

Emma Shook

Emma Shook is a violinist in The Cleveland Orchestra, with a passion for nature and animals. She and her partner, Eran Shiloh, are volunteers with Friends of The Walt, Friends of Lower Lake, and Friends of the Bradford Cinder Path. Shook has lived in University Heights for six years and previously lived in Cleveland Heights for 14.

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Volume 14, Issue 4, Posted 10:20 AM, 04.01.2021