ANDERSONVILLE — A local community group wants neighbors to help turn its community garden into a butterfly sanctuary.
The West Edgewater Area Residents Association is planning to convert some of its community garden in the 5800 block of North Ravenswood Avenue into a refuge that will hopefully boost ailing monarch butterfly populations, group president Scott Fink said.
The neighborhood group has already secured the assistance of Metra and local Chicago Public Schools students, but it now is looking for volunteers to help with the monarch sanctuary this spring and summer. A virtual meeting on the project will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. For more information on the event, click here.
The West Edgewater Area Residents garden was started in 1992 as a means of beautifying the Metra embankment wall that lines the eastern portion of Ravenswood Avenue. It has grown since then, with the addition of a water line, maturing evergreen trees and the recent planting of perennials and flower beds.
The newer flower beds have attracted endangered bees and butterflies in recent years, Fink said.
There has also been a renewed interest in gardening, which is seen as a pandemic-friendly outdoor activity. At the same time, some wildlife experts have become increasingly concerned about monarch butterfly populations in North America, which are seeing huge population losses in recent years.
The neighbors group decided to channel the popularity of gardening into helping the local butterfly population, Fink said.
“We were trying to come up with an idea to refresh the garden,” Fink said. “We asked, ‘How do we make the garden more engaging, a place people like to visit and bring their kids?'”
The plan is to turn a portion of the garden’s southern end into a butterfly haven.
To do so, the neighborhood association will plant an abundance of milkweed, which is the only thing caterpillars eat, Fink said. The group will also plant nectar-heavy plants for the butterflies to feed on, once they change from caterpillars to butterflies.
The Andersonville neighbors also plan to install a butterfly “puddling pool,” which is a shallow water source with native features like sand and gravel where butterflies can pull nutrients from the water and mud. Metra, which has crews in the area preparing for work on the new Peterson station, donated large flat stones that butterflies can use to sun after dipping in the pond, Fink said.
Neighbors have partnered with Peirce Elementary on the project. Students at the nearby school were invited to create logos for the new butterfly sanctuary. Upper-grade students are also helping to germinate milkweed seeds in egg cartoons and will be invited to help plant the seeds this spring, Fink said.
Planting and sanctuary installation events will be held this spring, Fink said.
Monarch butterflies are usually abundant in Chicago and the Midwest during the summer, but their numbers may be reduced this year. That’s because the number of Monarchs spending the winter in Mexico has reduced drastically this season, according to the Chicago Tribune. In December, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said monarchs qualify for endangered species protections.
Fink said the community garden’s butterfly sanctuary project will help build community while “helping to reserve the blight of the declining Monarch populations.”
For more information on the project, click here.
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