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Independence Cemetery opens three-mile trail system through expansive pollinator habitat

By Gayle Pille
Special to NKyTribune

Independence Cemetery has recently opened one of the largest contiguous pollinator habitats in Northern Kentucky.

Comprising 65 acres, trails flow through fields of Indian Hemp, Butterfly Weed, Common Milkweed, Wingstem, and other grasses and wildflowers. Bumble Bees, Monarch Butterflies, Zebra Swallowtails, Great-spangled Fritillaries, and other butterflies are flitting about the flowers; with Meadowlarks and Red-winged Blackbirds nesting in the tall grasses.

Monarch Caterpillar — photographed by Gayle Pille as she walked the trail

The habitat and trails are the brain-child of Independence resident and exhibit builder/designer Mike Strohm.

Mike was driving past the cemetery a day last summer when he noticed huge patches of Common Milkweed and Butterfly Weed that were about to be mowed for hay. After walking the fields Mike wondered why this could not be preserved for pollinator habitat and approached Tom Honebrink, General Manager of Highland and Independence Cemeteries. Honebrink, whose Highland Cemetery has more than six miles of nature trails through its 150 acres of woodlands, was immediately on board.

It’s an obvious win-win, and win.

Northern Kentucky residents get more than three miles of walking trails through beautiful habitat to enjoy. With grassland birds in steep decline, this is a large tract of habitat that allows the birds to successfully nest and raise their young. Insects, including Monarch Butterflies whose numbers have declined by 90% over the past two decades, also have additional habitat that is loaded with Common Milkweed, the Monarch’s host plant, and other nectar-producing plants.

Mike continues to add more plants for additional variety, including Button Bush, Swamp Milkweed, Joe Pye Weed, and Cup Plant to name a few.

Mike has recently opened the second trail of what will be a total of three miles of trails.

By mid-August, all of the pollinator trails should be open for folks to enjoy.

“When you’re in the middle of those fields, you think you’re in another world,” said Mike.

Independence Cemetery is located at 5358 Madison Pike in Independence. The cemetery and pollinator trails are open daily until 6:30 p.m.

Enjoy these sightings by Gayle Pille — but take the trail to see these and others for yourself:

Monarch Butterfly

Eastern Tailed Blue Butterfly

Tiger Swallowtail

Red-winged Blackbird fledgling

Zebra Swallowtail

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  1. ruth bamberger says:

    A big, big thanks to you. Mike! May your example spread throughout our region.
    Readers may want to visit the NKY Sierra Club’s butterfly garden in Goebel Park.

  2. Josh says:

    This is great, especially since they are building on every other piece of greenery in this county. Thank you for seeing this Mike.

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