With a 2009 Innovation Grant, Grange Insurance Audubon Center addressed social and environmental issues in downtown Columbus, Ohio, through job training, environmental education, and hands-on habitat restoration. They educated 1300 residents of downtown Columbus about invasive Amur honeysuckle; helped 60 residents remove invasive honeysuckle and plant native plants; and trained 15 students from a local charter school that serves at-risk students in GPS technology. Those students contributed enormously to the project by analyzing the target area for honeysuckle removal in the Scioto River-Greenlawn Important Bird Area (in downtown Columbus). In addition to mapping honeysuckle in the area, they helped remove honeysuckle shrubs and replant with native plants. They then presented their maps and information about controlling and replacing invasive species of plants to their teachers, peers, and environmental education professionals throughout Ohio. For their efforts, the students earned one half credit in life science and one half credit in science technology.
Grange Insurance Audubon Center met multiple goals with this project, both social and environmental:
• Trained 15 students from an underserved area in valuable job skills.
• Provided 60 residents of a low-income area with free native plants for their backyards. One resident stated that this was his spring work out regime and he lost over 20 pounds removing invasive shrubs and planting over 30 native plants!
• Removed over two acres of Amur honeysuckle, an invasive shrub, from an Important Bird Area.
The project helped Grange Insurance Audubon Center turn a good idea into a strong conservation program. The program is now being used as a model in Cincinnati, where the original project team is working with a garden club and using the training they received through TogetherGreen to design their project.