EcoPel joins with NYS DOT to plant pollinators—starting with Hutch Parkway exit in Pelham Manor


Editor’s note: This press release was provided by the Environmental Coalition of the Pelhams (EcoPel). The Pelham Examiner publishes press releases in the form received as a service to the community.

From little things, big things grow. Nowhere is this truer than in community-led efforts to restore sustainable roadside ecosystems.

According to Pollinator Partnership, there are 17 million miles of potential highway habitat in the U.S. that can support pollinators through maintenance practices including vegetation management and planting native plants.

The NY State Department of Transportation’s (NYSDOT) and the Environmental Coalition of the Pelhams (EcoPel) recently joined forces to launch a multi-phase pollinator garden partnership through the NYSDOT’s Adopt-A-Highway Program.

In a first for the Town of Pelham on May 7 and as Phase One of this partnership, more than 30 volunteers from community organizations including the Village of Pelham Climate Smart Community Task Force and Sustainability Advisory Board, Pelham Healthy Yards, Boy Scouts Troops, Pelham Preservation and Garden Society, Pelham Middle School students, and active neighbors planted 270 winged sumac (Rhus copallinum) bare root seedlings at the Pelham Manor Hutchinson River Parkway Northbound Exit 4 (Boston Post Road).

Historically grown by the Department of Environmental Conservation Saratoga Tree Nursery for land management practices that remediate and restore New York State forests, these native seedlings’ usefulness has expanded to fill a vital niche to government agencies managing large-scale conservation plantings affordably.

In New York, DOT representatives Aileen Helsley, Maintenance Environmental Coordinator, and Lynn Jablowsky, Acting Resident Engineer Residency 8-9 are already implementing changes within the Hudson Valley Region that includes Pelham. They initiated a pilot program that benefits pollinators across Region 8, including installing gardens alongside the Hurley Rail Trail and NY I-684 Bedford Rest Area and collaborating with their regional General Foreman on strategic mowing plans. They met with EcoPel and other community stakeholders on-site in March to map out a multi-phase roadside pollinator planting plan that adds Pelham to this initiative.

By replacing as little as one-tenth of an acre of turfgrass that provided poor ecosystem services with a stand of native winged sumac, not only will the roadside become visually appealing, but functional too. Wildlife habitat will be added for many species of birds who now have a source of seeds through fall and winter and the shrubs provide pollen and nectar for more than 50 moth and butterfly species. Moreover, seedling plantings more effectively reduce the flow of stormwater runoff than grass, thereby reducing pollutants in our waterways.

Pollinators are essential to our ecosystems and to agriculture but they are in trouble. Habitat loss, pesticides, pests, invasive species, and climate change are threats to bees, butterflies, birds, moths, and other insects. Roadside management practices along the Hutch (and any transportation network) is green infrastructure that helps pollinators and is part of the solution.

Stay tuned for phase two of Pelham’s pollinator landscape restoration when an additional 6000 square feet of turf is converted for sowing a native wildflower meadow in fall 2022.

Restoring this habitat of the Hutchinson River Parkway Northbound Exit 4 is but a first step, but as community organizations and concerned residents continue to work together with local government agencies to create connected pathways for pollinators and increase ecosystem services, this small action will go a long way toward creating a big impact, improving our environment and beautifying our neighborhoods.

While many organizations and volunteers collaborated to plan and execute this event, and even more single-handedly planted the seedlings, the professional service of preparing the land for planting was undertaken by the generous donation of Mario Bulfamante & Sons.

The Environmental Coalition of the Pelhams (EcoPel) is a grassroots, non-partisan organization in Pelham NY concerned with environmental issues.

What action would you like to take? To learn more, become involved, and donate, please join and follow EcoPel on Instagram and Facebook @ecopelny and visit their website at

Please also follow Village of Pelham Sustainability Advisory Board/Climate Smart Communities Task Force for these and other climate-friendly initiatives: @sustainablepelham on Facebook, and @climatesmartpelham on Instagram.