In 2015, the Mott Park Recreation Area Association, following the suggestion of people who expressed their desires at our community forum, designated about 15 acres of the area to be returned to a natural state. We ceased mowing these areas which encompass the old fairways #2 and #5 on the north side of the river and #3 on the south side. Part of this area tends toward wetland, and was difficult to keep mowed. In addition to the tall grasses that sprang up, many wildflowers colonized the areas, and trees also started appearing here and there among the other plants.
As summer progressed, we noticed many butterflies flitting over the area, including quite a number of Monarchs which were probably attracted by our milkweed stands. We applied for and received designation as a Monarch Waystation through Monarch Watch which is an organization dedicated to restoring Monarch Butterfly habitat and populations.
Monarch Watch describes themselves as:
“…a nonprofit education, conservation, and research program based at the University of Kansas that focuses on the monarch butterfly, its habitat, and its spectacular fall migration.
“Mission Statement: Monarch Watch strives to provide the public with information about the biology of monarch butterflies, their spectacular migration, and how to use monarchs to further science education in primary and secondary schools. We engage in research on monarch migration biology and monarch population dynamics to better understand how to conserve the monarch migration. We also promote protection of monarch habitats throughout North America.
“Vision Statement: In recognition of the rapid loss of habitats and resources needed by monarch butterflies in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, it is clear that the preservation of the monarch migration will require stewardship by the governments and private citizens of all three countries. We all must work together to create, conserve, and protect monarch habitats. Sustaining monarch habitats will have the effect of protecting vital pollinators and other wildlife.”*
Their Monarch Waystation Program is designed to:
“…(encourage the development of) places that provide resources necessary for monarchs to produce successive generations and sustain their migration. Without milkweeds throughout their spring and summer breeding areas in North America, monarchs would not be able to produce the successive generations that culminate in the migration each fall. Similarly, without nectar from flowers these fall migratory monarch butterflies would be unable to make their long journey to overwintering grounds in Mexico. The need for host plants for larvae and energy sources for adults applies to all monarch and butterfly populations around the world.”**
For more information about the Monarch Watch organization, check their website: www.monarchwatch.org.
We also registered our natural areas as a Monarch Habitat with Monarch Joint Venture, an organization headquartered at the University of Minnesota, which describes itself as follows:
“The Monarch Joint Venture (MJV) is a partnership of federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, and academic programs that are working together to support and coordinate efforts to protect the monarch migration across the lower 48 United States. The MJV is committed to a science-based approach to monarch conservation work, guided by the North American Monarch Conservation Plan (2008).
“The monarch migration was listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as an endangered phenomenon in 1983. In 2010, the World Wildlife Fund included monarchs on its list of the “Top 10 to Watch” in 2010: species that are thought to be in need of close monitoring and protection.
“The MJV is committed to conserving the monarch butterfly migration by focusing conservation efforts within the United States.”***
To find out more about Monarch Joint Venture, visit their website at monarchjointventure.org
For 2016, 2017, and 2018 we scattered more milkweed seed to feed even more Monarch caterpillars and had hundreds of milkweed plants blooming in our prairie areas. We will be scattering more milkweed seed this spring and, at the request of our disc golfers, are looking to expand our natural areas into the southeast quadrant to better define the disc golf fairways. We are seeking gardening partners who can help us by identifying and removing invasive species or plant native plant species and wildflowers and hope to start using the resources of MonarchWatch and Monarch Joint Venture to identify grant funding sources or area partner organizations which can help us develop our natural areas.
In 2021, we welcomed a group of incoming Kettering University students who helped us cut and pull teasel plants in part of our natural area. Teasel, aside from being somewhat unattractive is a fast-spreading, noxious, invasive plant that is very hard to eradicate, in part, because it is biennial. We will be working hard to eliminate this plant from our natural area while encouraging native wildflowers and plants to feed our butterflies and bees.
Portions for our “prairie” habitat are fast becoming forested. The shrubby trees that sprouted the first couple years have started maturing into ashes and walnuts. We will have to start thinning our new woodland to allow the trees to grow optimally. A side benefit is that teasel does not grow well in shady areas.
If you would like to contribute money, labor or expertise to the development and maintenance of our natural areas and our butterfly sanctuary, please visit our Contributions page.