Maidstone Bicentennial Museum’s garden certified as ‘Wildlife Friendly Habitat’

by Sylene Argent & photos submitted

For well over a decade, the outdoor Native Heritage Gardens at the Maidstone Bicentennial Museum has been a resource for mindfulness and education, and after years of additions, care, and growth, it was recently certified as “Wildlife Friendly Habitat” through the Canadian Wildlife Federation.

  Museum Curator, Victoria Beaulieu, said awhile back, she happened to come across the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s criteria for the Wildlife Friendly Habitat Certification, and noticed, right away, the Native Heritage Gardens met the requirements.

  “It was manly because of the types of things we grow, all the work we did putting in native plants and trees,” Beaulieu said. “We also put in bird feeders, and it is located near the river, so it provides the perfect habitat area.”

  Beaulieu said the garden has been a gather place for various species of wildlife, too. “We have had deer come up, and also racoons, possums, and turkeys,” which are, of course, in addition to the butterflies and other pollinators that stop by.

  Getting the certification, Beaulieu said, was a nice feeling as a lot of money and time have been invested into the small oasis since it was first installed around 14-years ago. A few years into its creation, the ERCA provided the Maidstone Bicentennial Museum with a grant, so work could continue on the expanding project.

  “A lot of it has been trial and error,” Beaulieu said. “We have learned a lot. Some plants are aggressive, and you need to contain them.”

  She added the Native Heritage Gardens area also provides for an opportunity for volunteers at the Museum to teach visitors, when allowed onsite based on COVID restrictions, about native plant and flower species. Even annual youth-orientated days have been held, including events focused on teaching about butterflies and bees. Other events, focused on teaching about hummingbird and bats, have also been held in the past.  

“I have great ideas for the summer, if we can open. I hope we can at last open the gardens,” Beaulieu said, adding she hopes the volunteers at the Museum will be able to build a seasonal butterfly house. This 10’x10’ piece of educational equipment will allow visitors to the site to watch caterpillars evolve into butterflies over time.

  “It depends if we are open. It would give us the ability to teach more,” Beaulieu said as to whether the seasonal butterfly house would be built or not this summer. “It will give a better visual during the Butterfly Day event. I think it’ll be neat.”

  Conservationism, Beaulieu said, does tie into the Museum’s educational component. She, and other volunteers, have put in quite a bit of research into plants pioneers and Native Americans would have used medicinally, and which they considered to be edible, though they do not recommended visitors try those ideas at home.

  In the past, the Maidstone Bicentennial Museum has hosted plant sales, and Beaulieu hopes that will be able to happen again this summer, as it creates revenue for the Museum and its native garden project. It also encourages local residents to plant native plant species.