Toledo Memorial Park goes native – Oak Openings-style that is

“We want Toledo Memorial Park to become a place that members of the community visit and enjoy. We have a beautiful park filled with flowers, birds of all kinds, along with miles of walking paths. Many people have discovered the beauty and tranquility we offer but we are always looking for ways we can be more accessible to the community and dispel the stigma so often associated with a cemetery,” Toledo Memorial Park’s head gardener Brittany Durco stated. “Thanks to TOPS Executive Director Erika Buri and her suggestion that we incorporate native plantings in our park through the introduction of the Green Ribbon Initiative, a whole new vista has opened up to us. Adding native garden beds and prairies is so important to maintaining our eco system and these native habitats, once established, provide shelter and food for many species of birds. All of this will add to the overall beauty of our park.”

Inspired by the initiative, Durco has cultivated an acre prairie including a plant-specific flower bed on the Monroe Street side of the mausoleums and a .7 acre pollinator prairie site behind the 911 Memorial. Both areas have been planted with seeds of native plant species the park received thanks to its membership in the Green Ribbon Initiative and Durco’s countless volunteer hours collecting seeds and more. To date, she has planted over 100 different species, including many of her favorites such as Little Blue Stem, Wild Bergamot, Yarrow, Black-Eyed Susan, Flat Top Asters and Spiderwort to name a few.
Durco noted she has also found several species already growing throughout the park including Purple Coneflower, Black-Eyed Susans, Orange Butterfly Weed, Great Blue Lobelia and Foxglove Beardtongue, which she has been duplicating, transplanting and collecting seeds from.
According to Durco, while many of the seeds and plants will start to bloom this spring, it will take three years for the prairies to mature.“However, it is obvious how beautiful a native garden can be.”
She has also used plants, shrubs and trees purchased from the Lucas Soil & Water Conservation District’s annual plant sale. Durco has planted those trees and shrubs in the new prairies to give depth and shape to the beds. “These also offer shelter for various birds,” she said.
Last summer, Buri talked to Toledo Memorial Park’s Operations Director Josette Snyder about the Green Ribbon Initiative and the importance of creating natural habitats by encouraging native plants to flourish. They talked about the potential for transforming portions of the TMP property with the planting of plants, shrubs and trees native to the Oak Openings region.
Snyder liked the idea, as did Jeff Clegg, TMP’s executive director. Clegg gave the go ahead to gardener Durco, who immediately embraced the entire project.
Buri brought several people to help with the project including Ashlee Decker of the Green Ribbon Initiative, Cindy Cornicom of Poppin’ Up Natives and Penny Niday of Metroparks Toledo, who tested the soil and helped Durco plan where to create beds and what to plant.
Durco has learned everything she could as she researched plants, attended seminars and learned from others who also had developed passion for this effort. “We hope to also inspire nenbers of the community to join us in our efforts to preserve the Oak Openings region and we encourage volunteers to work with us as we continue to develop the native gardens in the park,” Durco invited.
About the Oak Openings Green Ribbon Initiative
GRI is a partnership of conservation groups working together since 2000 to protect the natural beauty and biological diversity of the Oak Openings Region with the support of public and private organizations, landowners and individuals. GRI works to save the best remaining pieces of the Oak Openings and restore a small percentage of what has been lost. For more information, visit

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