Salem wonders if Bee City will create a buzz

SALEM — The city parks department is exploring the idea of becoming a Bee City USA to promote pollinator gardens and possibly provide educational programs about bees.

City Parks Commission members want to know more, though, about the benefits of being a Bee City USA.

Commission Chair John Panezott said he knows the importance of bees, but if the commission is going to pay an annual registration fee of $200, “tell me what I’m going to get from them for my $200.”

Parks Director Shane Franks said two or three people approached him about the idea of Bee City USA, which is along the same lines as Tree City USA but with bees. He approached Salem Mayor John Berlin to see if there would be any issue with it and he said there wouldn’t be.

“Just trying to raise awareness of the importance of pollinators,” Franks said.

Panezott, Vice Chairman Lucille Karnofel and commission member Lori Colian all asked what the organization does for a city that pays $200 to join. According to the website at www.beecityusa.org, the fee is based on population.

Franks asked if the $200 was the only issue they had with the idea. He suggested they visit the website and then come back to discuss it more at the next meeting.

The parks department installed a prairie garden, which can attract pollinators, last year with help from some master gardeners and a grant. Franks said some people are already interested in serving on a committee that would be required for a Bee City USA.

Parks Foreman Jim Grimm noted that the bee population is going down and if it’s lost, if there’s nothing to pollinate plants, then “we have no fruits or vegetables.”

Some of the programming associated with being a Bee City USA could encourage property owners to plant a garden to attract pollinators.

“Maybe we just need a little more information,” Colian said.

According to the website, the benefits of Bee City USA include ensuring survival of a vital animal species, building community locally and national, improving local food production, supporting small business such as local nurseries which sell pollinator friendly plants, addressing pest problems with fewer pesticides and raising community awareness of the diversity of plants and pollinators.

In other business, the commission learned that longtime parks department secretary Jill Moore, who worked part-time, retired at the end of the year. Commission members wished her well and thanked her for all her years of service.

The commission agreed with Franks’ recommendation to hire Diana Harshman as the new part-time secretary. Harshman was a former part-time tax clerk for the city and lost her job at the end of the year when the Regional Income Tax Agency took over tax collections.

They all were familiar with her and said she would fit right in.

Franks shared images of the style of kayak he’s purchasing for the Salem city lake that visitors will be able to rent, just like the boats. The price is estimated at $600 for two kayaks designed for fishing. He also reviewed proposed projects for this year. A decision had already been made about pool improvements. A project to install LED lighting is being tabled for now.

Recreation Supervisor Amber Smith, who also serves as pool manager, is accepting applications for head lifeguard and lifeguard.

Franks said he’s not promising yet that the pool will be open but the goal and plan at this time is to open the Centennial Pool, likely starting June 12 since school runs later this year.

Applications for girls softball are due Feb. 12, Smith also said.

Grimm also gave his report on general maintenance, tree cleanup, snow removal, etc.

The next meeting of the parks commission will be 5 p.m. Feb. 24 in city hall council chambers.



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