Brent's Grist Mill to become future site of 'pasture for bees'

A partnership between the City of Kelowna and UBC-Okanagan hopes to turn the derelict Brent's Grist Mill into a sanctuary for wild pollinators like bees and butterflies.

Derelict heritage site will teem with new life in 2017, project leader hopes

A field at Brent's Grist Mill in Kelowna. The City of Kelowna and UBC-Okanagan hope to turn this low-productivity land into a "pasture for bees." (Baolihn Le)

Brent's Grist Mill, a run-down heritage site in Kelowna, B.C., dates back to 1871. But today, it's not much more than a home for marmots to roam between rotten planks.

Brent's Grist Mill in Kelowna, B.C., was built in 1871. (Rebecca Zandbergen/CBC)

The property, though, is about to get some fresh seed and become a sanctuary for wild pollinators like bees and butterflies, thanks to a partnership between the City of Kelowna and UBC-Okanagan.

"We're making a pasture for bees, so bees can feed," UBC-Okanagan associate professor Nancy Holmes told Radio West host Audrey McKinnon.

"We're focusing on wild bees. Most people think of honey bees when they think of bees, but in fact in the Okanagan … wild bees do an incredible amount of the heavy lifting when it comes to the pollination of our wild plants and lots of our agricultural plants. So we're trying to create a sanctuary for those bees."

The "pasture for bees" will take up about an acre of the Brent's Grist Mill site, Holmes said, and will also serve as a public art piece in some way.

Nancy Holmes is one of the people behind the pollinator garden project. (Audrey McKinnon/CBC)
She says part of the reason for combining the artistic and ecological with this project is to show local people how beautiful a pollinating garden can be — and placing the garden in a suburban setting is part of achieving those goals.

"We hope those bees will spread out into people's gardens, that people will start looking after those bees, planting their own pollinator gardens in their backyards and on their verges and giving up some of their lawns for food for bees," she said.

Holmes says the pasture's creation is a challenge because of Kelowna's dry weather and the blazing heat summer brings.

This spring and summer, the garden will undergo some soil testing and sampling, and in the fall, the first seeds will be put down. In 2017, those tests will help inform the garden's final design.

With files from Radio West

A concept artist's rendering of what the pollinator garden could look like. (Baolihn Le)

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Kelowna heritage site to become home of 'pasture for bees'

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