Lydia Colon, along with other family and friends who volunteered, put close to 500 native plants in the ground at Kuckuk Park Saturday
A prairie restoration is underway at Kuckuk Park in Shawano, thanks to the initiative taken by a local high school student.
Lydia Colon is a member of Girl Scout Troop 4363 and is attempting to earn the Gold Award, which is the highest honor that can be attained through the Girl Scouts. Her restoration project involves reclaiming the prairie that had been started in the park by planting 487 new, native plants, containing 12 different species.
“What happened previously was someone did put in a prairie here, but they accidentally put in an invasive plant not knowing and it took over the whole entire area, taking over the native plants,” explained Lydia. “We’re putting the native plants over it and we’re hoping the native plants will be able to take over the area again.”
Lydia says the project was inspired after she discovered she had a ‘green thumb’ following the completion of her Silver Award, a beautification project at a local elementary school.
After consulting with project adviser, Shawano Park and Rec Director Matt Hendricks, along with conducting her own research, the project seemed like a natural fit to do something she enjoys, while also being able to help the community.
“This one involved mostly planting and my green thumb, so I really liked this,” she said. “This is a challenge, but I think I can accomplish it.”
Reclaiming the prairie won’t occur overnight, however. Lydia explains that it’s a long-term project, but one that she hopes she’ll be able to look back on with pride for many years to come.
“It’ll take at least four years for my plants to get a good stronghold in the ground so invasive plants don’t come back. I’m thinking maybe 20 years for the rest of the prairie.”
The section of the prairie Lydia is restoring lies next to another established section that was started by Bob Dumke, who Lydia adds was a big help during the planning process. She hopes that through her work, it may inspire others to continue with the rest of the prairie.
“I’m hoping with my influence on my little area and with Bob Dumke’s, other local gardening clubs and clubs at the high school will notice we have something important going on here and we need to be focusing on it,” Lydia said over the prairie. “I hope that they’ll see [my work] and add to it.”
She acknowledged the project restoration could not have happened without those who helped make it possible, including her family, friends, and other local volunteers who stepped up to help put the plants in the ground.
Lydia was also grateful for the support she received from the Belle Plaine 4-H, who donated $500 of the $2,000 budget that she was working with. She also received donations and other help from Shawano Pathways, the park and recreation department, and the Wolf River Wild Ones, who provided the plants at a discounted price.
When it’s all said and done, Lydia’s impact on the prairie in Kuckuk Park will be long lasting, which is something she can be proud of.
“With the planting, I’ll be able to come back years on end and say to my grandkids, ‘I planted this.’ It just fills me with joy.”