The grasses and other plants growing in the park are attracting lots of beneficial insects, birds and other creatures. At a recent volunteers day with Seton Hall students, we were weeding ragweed from the mounds and there were dozens of dragonflies buzzing the area. We also found ladybugs within the matrix of grasses plus spiders, caterpillars, moths and butterflies. These additional bugs mean more birds are visiting the area now too. More insects and birds translate into fewer mosquitoes.
One observer noticed baby turtles hanging out in the pond adjacent to the Rain Park since it was installed. There may be no direct connection with turtles and the Rain Park, but it’s an interesting field note that we can keep looking for as time passes.
We’ve had some challenges this year. The Rain Park was mowed once right when the weather turned dry and hot. The untimely mowing caused lots of weeds to pop-up, so we’ve had to spend extra time getting the invasive species out of the park. Mowing the Rain Park also killed lots of the new perennials and grasses we had planted in spring. However, with the need for more weeding meant we had to get the community involved and it’s given us an excuse to plant new seed and plugs in the Rain Park. We’ve had around 50 volunteers help with the weeding and we have added nearly 200 new plants since late September this year along with about 5 to 6 lbs of new seed. All of this hard work will pay dividends.
The Rain Park is showing the residents of South Orange that nature takes work. There’s poetry to the Rain Park because as time goes by, its character will change too. Next year, we are definitely going to see more flowers in the park along with new grasses…new definition and new fulfillment from it. To really enjoy the Rain Park, you gotta linger next around it. For the best experience, you need to stand within the park. The mounds lift the earth up allowing the grasses to form a kind of green wall around you. At first it may not seem so special. After a couple of minutes though the rest of the world disappears. The first thing that really gets your attention is how the grasses move in the wind. It dances in the breeze. The sound it makes fills the air, and a deep respite is present. Then, you may notice a few birds or dragonflies buzz about or butterflies visiting the green leaves. All the while, you are surrounded by a grassy space as tall as you are. In these moments, it’s really hard to not see the special qualities the Rain Park is bring to the landscape.