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Volunteers create "waystation" for butterflies at Marylhurst Heights Park

TIDINGS PHOTO: VERNUYETAKE - Volunteer Brandi Petterson pitches in to create a waystation for butterflies at Marylhurst Heights Park.At first glance, it looked like a simple garden clean-up or weed removal.

Volunteers milled about in bright blue shirts, chatting freely as they dug into the earth. Marylhurst Heights Park was mostly empty, leaving the volunteers plenty of room to work.

But this wasn’t a simple clean-up. Instead, to celebrate Earth Day on April 22, these volunteers were partnering with the West Linn Parks and Recreation Department and SOLVE to create a new “monarch butterfly waystation” at the park.

It is the first of its kind in West Linn, according to Recreation Coordinator Terri Jones, the goal being to provide a more hospitable environment for butterflies during their migration period.

“We’re enhancing the natural area here to provide host plants and food sources that are attractive to monarch butterflies,” Jones said. “It gives them a place to rest, water, food sources and a place that’s free of chemical spray.”

TIDINGS PHOTO: VERNUYETAKE - Rachael Gibson and Mike Hinton of Advantis Credit Union participate in the Earth Day event.

The waystation will change little in terms of aesthetics at the park; in fact, you might not even notice any changes at first glance.

“It’s not going to look terribly different,” Jones said. “What we’re doing is we’ve identified some invasive species ... we’ve got some things in here that aren’t desirable.

“We’re removing those things, planting the host plants and we’ll put signage too so the public understands what’s happening and they understand it is going to be a lot more natural.

In completing this project, West Linn joined a national campaign to provide more waystations for monarch butterflies. According to Jones, the city first heard about the campaign though the National Parks and Recreation Association. Advantis Credit Union and SOLVE were looking for an Earth Day project in West Linn, and this fit the bill perfectly.

“When we considered all of the park locations, (Marylhurst Heights) seemed to meet the criteria list, as far as having water, evergreen trees, and natural plants, and being an area we don’t spray,” Jones said. “There are nectar plants, and we’re adding milk weed.”

Jones refers to Marylhurst Heights Park as a “pilot site,” and says similar projects could be done at other parks across the city.

“Potentially, sure,” she said. “This is definitely a pilot site and once we’re confident that we have enough of the important host plants — that they’re mature enough — we’d like to do a release of butterflies here.”

That could happen as early as June, but Jones said the city may wait up to a full year before releasing any butterflies.

“We certainly don’t want to release them and not have the food sources for them,” Jones said.

The waystations need not be limited to city parks, either; in fact, residents are encouraged to create their own. For Arbor Week in April, the city gave out nearly 500 packets of milk weed seeds for residents to plant themselves.

“We’re hoping this will resonate with the community and we’ll see more home gardens that have these host plants,” Jones said.

To learn more, contact the Parks and Recreation Department at 503-557-4700.

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