Pale purple coneflower, the bright yellow of oxeye sunflower and more muted yarrow bloom among native plants in a newly dedicated prairie at Squaw Creek Park in Marion.
The 6.6-acre site was formally dedicated Tuesday, June 25, as the Orlan Love Prairie, named in honor of Love, a Gazette reporter and columnist for 24 years.
A crowd gathered at the park’s Red Cedar Lodge next to the prairie for a ribbon-cutting, monarch butterfly release and remarks from project partners Linn County Conservation and the Monarch Research Project.
The pollinator prairie, in its third year of growth, was funded through a gift from Rich and Candy Altorfer of Cedar Rapids as part of the 1,000 Acre Plan, a program of the Monarch Research Project to return native habitat to parks and other public lands in Linn County.
“Orlan’s stories are credited with raising public awareness of the need to protect natural resources in Eastern Iowa and beyond the state’s borders,” the sign installed at the prairie reads, in part. “This prairie is a living tribute to a much-loved writer and conservationist.”
Jim Hoffman, director of the Monarch Research Project, noted that 600 acres have already been planted, with another 200 acres on the way this year, “so we’re getting close to 1,000.”
Co-founder and CEO Clark McLeod said monarch butterflies are the “canary in the coal mine,” and are important to attract attention to prairie restoration, but the plantings are needed for a broad range of insects.
Love touched on morel mushrooms, monarchs and other topics of his outdoor columns in brief remarks during the dedication.
“I don’t know if I’ve done enough to deserve this honor,” he said, giving credit to the donors and project partners. “Worthy or not, I’m inspired to do more.”
The Linn County Landowner Forum, set for Sept. 29, 2019, at Clearwater Farm in Marion, will focus on the importance of restoring native habitat on private land and features entomologist Doug Tallamy as keynote speaker. Online registration begins in August at: www.monarchresearch.org