Ron Marchant column March 7

Dan Prins, Van Elliott, David Rowley, Ray Kreutzfeld, Fred Burrell and Commissioner Ron Marchant

We’ve been able to turn an unused portion of our Precinct 2 government center property into a haven of fresh food for those in need, thanks to the help of Master Naturalists and Master Gardeners as well as volunteers.

When the government center was built on about 10 acres of land off Rosemeade Parkway in Carrollton, several acres were set aside for a future expansion. Instead of a separate building, we later expanded the existing government center, which left 4 acres unused.

Several years ago, we transformed the unused property into something for the community. Our Landscape Project Manager Fred Burrell, Denton Master Gardeners and Texas Master Naturalists coordinated efforts to plant the first few fruit trees and vineyards in 2017.

Youth from the Denton County Juvenile Probation division helped with weeding and mulching.

Each year since, we planted additional trees, expanded the vineyards and added wildflowers.

Today we have pear, plum, peach, pecan, fig, and pomegranate trees along with six to seven varieties of table grapes, four to five varieties of blackberries and an assortment of wildflowers.

This spring will see some trees bearing fruit while others might take a few more years. We donate all of the fruit to the food bank and families in need.

Master Gardener Patty Cooke and her team replaced seven trees in January and pruned other trees. And, in March, they’ll replace some grapevines.

Members of the Elm Fork Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists recently built a 15.5-foot chimney swift tower in a member’s workshop.

Dan Prins’ workshop in Cross Roads is where several men worked on the tower including project manager Van Elliott, David Rowley and Ray Kreutzfeld. The project - under the direction of Adelaide Bodnar as president of the Elm Fork Chapter – is one of two chimney swift towers on county property. The first is behind the Denton County Public Health offices off Loop 288 in the administrative complex that will one day be a public gathering place when the new Denton County Courthouse is finished next year.

The tower provides the perfect habitat for chimney swifts, who prefer nests in vertical spaces.

Chimney swifts, which initially had nests in hollow trees, began building nests in chimneys during the 18th century settlement of North America. They also build nests in air vents, garages and barns across an area from Canada to Texas in the spring, preferring to spend winter months in the tropics.

As their hollow-tree habitat disappeared, the birds adapted to other structures, especially the many chimneys. However, as homeowners capped chimneys, the chimney swift numbers began dwindling, dropping as much as 53 percent in the past 50 years, according to an article in the National Audubon Society.

The daytime birds feed exclusively on insects, making them a popular choice for curbing mosquitoes naturally.

Having a chimney swift tower alongside a fruit orchard seemed the perfect combination.

My hope is that people enjoy The Grove, spending time volunteering or stopping by just to enjoy the wildflowers when they bloom.

Knowing that the fruits of these labors will help feed the hungry is what makes The Grove truly special.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Ron Marchant, who has served as commissioner since 2007, is a lifelong resident of Carrollton where he served on the city council, worked as Precinct 6 Justice of the Peace and has been actively involved in a number of other civic organizations. He can be reached at (972) 434-7140 or at Ronald.Marchant@dentoncounty.com.

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