Memphis Light Gas and Water (MLGW) is planting 13 acres of Electric Transmission ROW in Kennedy Park with species of native warm season grasses (NWSG) and native wildflower species. This effort began with herbicide application in October, 2015, and additional herbicide application and planting of seeds and plants will take place in the spring 2016. This replanted area will create an area more beneficial to local wildlife and pollinators, and it will result in lower ROW maintenance expense for MLGW. It should also serve as a pilot for other similar efforts.
The Wolf River Conservancy (WRC) generated this idea as MLGW and WRC were collaborating to identify opportunities to protect the Wolf River watershed. The City of Memphis is the landowner, and is supportive of the project. While the majority of planting will be seeds, Clean Memphis will organize an effort to use school children to plant plugs of several species of the wildflowers in the more visible areas of the ROW.
Representatives of local garden, bird, and pollinator societies were consulted prior to the project to get ideas on species. The neighborhood associations near Kennedy Park were notified prior to the project to give them an opportunity for input. Local and regional agencies with experience and knowledge of the topic were asked for guidance in the project: Those include Memphis Botantic Garden, Memphis Zoo, UT Extension Service, Overton Park Conservancy, Agricenter, Ducks Unlimited, TDEC and TWRA.
MLGW expects this area will grow to a well established mix of native grasses and wildflowers, and increasing the abundance and diversity of wildlife around the site. Water runoff into the Wolf River should be well-filtered. MLGW will need to do less mowing and less herbicide applications to keep trees and vines from growing into our electric transmission lines. Users of Kennedy Park and the Wolf River Greenway will enjoy the beauty of the native plantings and the associated wildlife. Children involved in the effort will gain an appreciation for the need for wild areas. We hope this effort serves as a template for similar projects.
***UPDATE*** On Thursday, June 30, starting at 9:15am, a group of 20 students and volunteers from Memphis Business Academy, Clean Memphis and Memphis Light, Gas and Water (MLGW) spent the morning replanting a utility right of way with wildflowers and native grasses.
The high school students set out 200 seedlings of several wildflower species in the more visible area of MLGW’s linear meadow in John F. Kennedy Park; 4577 Raleigh-LaGrange Rd. The week prior, workers using a seed drill planted the area with wildflower and native grass seeds.
“This will not only lower our maintenance expenses, but it will also enhance the natural environment,” said MLGW’s Commercial and Industrial Customer Care manager Bill Bullock. It likely will take two summers before the meadow is fully established.
In all, students and workers are transforming about 13 acres – or 5,500 linear feet – into a field with such plants as black-eyed Susans, coneflowers and milkweed. The native grasses and wildflowers provide food and habitat for birds, bees and butterflies. The meadow also will better filter any runoff into the nearby Wolf River.
Photos – Watch the project evolve