The bees and butterflies are getting more space to spread their wings at Stuart Sports Complex.

ComEd and Openlands recently announced that the Fox Valley Park District is one of 26 public agencies from northern Illinois to receive an environmental grant from the organizations through the annual ComEd Green Region Program.

The Fox Valley Park District has received $10,000 to expand pollinator habitat and food sources, while increasing regional native vegetation presence. The project will connect existing prairie by converting nearly 20 acres of turf grass on the Stuart Sports Complex into native wildflower-enriched prairie, which is crucial to the survival of pollinators.

“We’re trying to get pathways of natural areas that the pollinators can use to propagate other areas,” said John Kramer, the FVPD’s director of park operations. “The more they have connectivity to contiguous natural areas, the more they can propagate. The point of Stuart’s natural areas has always been that – and we’re just adding to what we already have.”

Since the inception of the Green Region Program in 2013, ComEd has awarded more than $1.3 million to municipalities across northern Illinois to help fund their open-space projects. ComEd provides the funding, and Openlands, one of the oldest metropolitan conservation organizations in the nation, administers the grants to local communities.

“Together with our partners at Openlands, we are proud to support organizations that are making meaningful differences to restore and enhance natural habitats and biodiversity,” said Melissa Washington, Vice President of Governmental and External Affairs at ComEd. “It’s the perfect balance of meeting our future energy needs and powering a brighter and more sustainable future for our customers and the communities we serve.”

Due to a recent decline in pollinators throughout northern Illinois, and strong interest in pollinator conservation, the 2019 Green Region projects again focus on advancing and protecting the region’s essential pollinator species. Earlier this year, public agencies from across communities that ComEd serves submitted grant applications, which were then reviewed by an advisory committee composed of county government officials and members of the region’s conservation community.

“The more areas you have for butterflies and bees, the more you have natural pollination go on,” Kramer said. “The more areas that get sodded over that don’t have any sort of pollination going on, there’s no environment for butterflies and bees to live in.”

According to Aaron Reinhart, the FVPD’s superintendent of golf and sports turf, the identification and layout of areas at Stuart will be addressed this week by FVPD staff and its contractor, with work beginning in the coming weeks.