The Oconee Rivers Audubon Society (ORAS) recently received the National Audubon Society's Plants for Birds Burke Grant. With this funding, ORAS will be able to build a high-profile demonstration garden to showcase the importance of native plants to bird conservation while also creating habitat for other wildlife within the Athens community.
“I was really thrilled to find out ORAS was awarded the grant,” said ORAS president, Lauren Gingerella. She and two other board members, Betsy Kurimo-Beechuck and Heather Levy, worked to develop and submit the grant proposal to the National Audubon Society. They received 56 applications from 25 states for this funding cycle and ORAS one of just 20 recipients awarded the Burke Grant.
The proposed location for the garden is along the Oconee River Greenway in Athens. When complete, this garden will provide opportunities to demonstrate the significance of native plants to wildlife to Athens-Clarke County residents.
“Members of Oconee Rivers Audubon are already aware of the importance of planting natives for birds and other wildlife, which is wonderful,” Gingerella noted. “But we really want to target new members of the Athens community who have not historically been engaged in native plants and/or bird conservation.”
The grant emphasizes community engagement and collaboration with local organizations. With this opportunity, ORAS plans to collaborate with partners such as the unified government of Athens-Clarke County, the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, Lilly Branch Audubon Society, students and faculty from the University of Georgia, and local native nurseries in the implementation of the proposed garden.
The plan is to plant approximately 1,500 native plants in the garden. “[W]e are going to need a lot of help from ORAS members when it comes to prep, plan, and maintain the garden,” Gingerella added.