Ypsi Township resident leads effort to plant native wildflower garden at Sugarbrook Park

As part of her mission to draw more residents to Ypsilanti Township parks, Tajalli Hodge led a group of volunteers in planting a native wildflower garden in Sugarbrook Park this past Saturday. 

Hodge became an Ypsilanti Township park commissioner to help develop parks in the area. But after coming up with the idea of renovating the park in her neighborhood, Sugarbrook, in 2019, she realized that she could do it all on her own.

“Most of the park is not being utilized, so I thought, 'Why not have a garden, get some flowers in here, bring some color, and help entice people to come to the park?'” Hodge says.

After getting approval from the Ypsilanti Township Parks Department, Hodge started planning out the project. She received a $2,500 grant from mParks, a $1,000 mini sponsorship grant from the Washtenaw County Water Resources Office, and a $4,500 grant from the Ann Arbor Area Board of Realtors. The Water Resources Office helped map out the best location for the garden on the park's five acres. The Parks Department helped prepare the ground and pick up the plants.

The garden is composed of Michigan native perennials that attract butterflies and pollinators. Some plants include nodding wild onion, milkweeds, prairie drops, and purple coneflowers. They don’t require any fertilizer, chemicals, or much maintenance. The plants are also great water absorbers, which will help prevent some of the flooding that happens at the park. 

Community support for the project has been overwhelming. Hodge created a Sugarbrook Facebook page during the pandemic that has accumulated over 200 members. About 50 volunteers were eager to join her in planting the garden, and some community members lent gardening tools to the project.

“Everyone has been really supportive of these projects, and of doing things to liven up the park, because everyone does want to see more things here,” Hodge says.

In the future, she is interested in adding benches around the garden and having a mural painted on the wall that outlines part of the park. Hodge has also looked into adding a well to the area for a more stable water source. She hopes this will spark a future community herb, fruit, and vegetable garden. She also plans to install educational signage so kids can tour the garden and learn about the plants. Hodge is also interested in doing similar work in other parks in the township. 

“Anybody can do something like this,” Hodge says. “If somebody wants to install a garden at a park, or even in their backyard, there are resources to help them. They don’t have to be anything special. They don’t have to pay for it themselves. They can partner with agencies and grants like I did.”

Maria Patton is a lifelong Ypsilanti resident. She is currently a student at the University of Michigan, working towards a bachelor’s degree in communication and media. You can find more of her work in The Michigan Daily, where she is a columnist for the Michigan in Color section. She can be reached at pattonma@umich.edu.

Photos by Irreverent Media, LLC.
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