Downtown Newton is getting some newly renovated green space, as the Hutchinson Community College satellite campus continues work on a project to turn part of its property at the corner of Broadway and Oak streets into a pollinator garden.

"We needed to redo the landscaping of that front area and decided to do something with native Kansan plants," said HCC Newton counselor Bev Wiebe. "When people use plants that are native to the area, they use less water — you need less resources that way — and they also provide habitat and food for native insects, which non-native plants don't do."

Stemming from a maintenance request, an opportunity was presented to do something a little different with some of the landscaping at the HCC campus in Newton. With that, Wiebe turned to former Hesston College ecology professor and Dyck Arboretum board member Lorna Harder for assistance. Harder and Wiebe then worked together planning and planting the pollinator garden, getting native plants from Dyck Arboretum's semiannual FloraKansas sale.

The first stages of planting started last spring, with the second stage wrapping up in mid-September, and Wiebe said there are plans to add a few more features next spring. Currently, the pollinator garden on the HCC Newton campus is now almost entirely made up of native plants (with a few plants left from what was there before) and both Wiebe and Harder see that as a big benefit to the community.

"I think that every opportunity we have to create a native landscape that encourages our pollinators is important. Insect populations are declining globally, certainly here in North America, so everyone can do a little bit to help the little insects, the little critters of life along," Harder said.

Preliminary planning — namely, getting the garden cleared by administration — fell to Wiebe, while Harder took charge of the plant selection and layout of the garden. Though those two took on most of the work, they are still hoping to get students involved with the project as well.

Newton's campus does not offer science classes, but even so Wiebe said she sees multiple ways for the pollinator garden to enhance students' experience on campus — at the very least helping with their state of mind.

"There's research that says just driving past a park, if you live within 10 minutes of a park, it's beneficial to mental health. So, you figure having a place that students are walking past is going to be beneficial to them, even if they're not personally involved, but we are hoping to get a little bit more involvement from students as we go along," Wiebe said.

Already, Wiebe said, the garden has drawn people's attention, as she has had members of the public stop and make comments while working on the garden. With the many benefits a pollinator garden can provide, such as using fewer resources and providing a habitat for pollinators, she is hopeful there are many lessons the students and community members at large can take from the garden.

"We're hoping to influence the students and the community to consider native plants," Wiebe said, "and just be more attuned to those issues in our community as they're making choices about things that they plant."