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February 2017

Glen Ellyn Joins Growing Number of Monarch Friendly Communities

The Glen Ellyn Park District signed a monarch resolution on February 7th, formalizing a longstanding commitment to monarch conservation. The Park District is the seventh municipal entity to endorse DuPage Monarch Project’s goal of expanding and improving habitat for a butterfly that in recent years has experienced an alarming and precipitous decline in population.

Students at Ben Franklin Elementary School kicked off Glen Ellyn’s summer of monarchs in 2015 when they decided to learn more about the challenges facing the butterfly and what could be done to help them. Their interest quickly expanded beyond the classroom into a collaborative, village wide effort between the Village of Glen Ellyn, Park District, Public Library, School District 41, and Willowbrook Wildlife Center. Monarchs were featured on banners, two monarch programs were presented at the library, over 80 volunteers participated in planting two new butterfly gardens, approximately 800 milkweed plants were given away or planted and hundreds of milkweed seed packets were distributed.

“Glen Ellyn is a powerful example of how diverse public bodies can cooperate and work together on an issue like monarch conservation,” said Lonnie Morris, Coordinator for the DuPage Monarch Project.   “Each one made a contribution that added up to Glen Ellyn being monarch friendly from their parks and public spaces into residential gardens.”

The 2015 summer of monarch initiatives will be ongoing under the newly signed resolution, which sets monarch protection and habitat as park district priorities.It may take many years for the butterfly to recover, but Glen Ellyn is already preparing the next generation of conservationists by introducing young people to the joys of discovering the natural world.

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“Searching for monarch eggs and caterpillars is a favorite activity for kids who come through our nature camp programs,” said Renae Frigo, a naturalist with the Glen Ellyn Park District. “The past few years has proved more challenging to find them, but once the campers know what to look for, they cannot help but check milkweed plants during other activities. Watching a child walk past a plant, flip the leaf to look for monarch activity, warms my heart. They are hopeful in their search, and it reminds me that we should be hopeful for the species, that we are moving in a better direction.”

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New Activists Score a Major Win for Monarchs

Emily Hansen and Kathleen McTighe took a giant leap into the unknown when asked to help monarchs. Their shared concern for the imperiled butterfly launched them into the public arena and saw them through to a successful outcome.

Hansen and McTighe already had a history with native plants, the key to healthy monarch habitat, when they agreed to be advocates for the butterfly. McTighe, a retired elementary school teacher had recently redesigned her landscape, replacing traditional plantings with wildlife friendly natives. Hansen’s environmental roots began with a degree in Natural Resources Conservation and employment on various ecological restoration projects. They also shared a connection with Denise Sandoval, a local member of Wild Ones and DuPage Monarch Project (DMP), who called upon them when DMP was looking for volunteers to reach out to municipal leaders in Naperville.

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Emily Hansen and Kathleen McTighe at Knoch Knolls Nature Center, Naperville

Hansen and McTighe’s first step as new activists was to learn as much as they could before approaching decision makers. Wanting to know more about the activist process, they turned to Connie Schmidt, DuPage Monarch Project board member and seasoned activist. Schmidt outlined the recommended steps: researching the monarch’s situation and proposed solutions, looking into what their community was already doing, connecting with like minded people, using the model resolution on DMP’s website as a starting point and asking questions all along the way.

“Kathleen and Emily had little previous experience in community advocacy work,” said Schmidt, “but sitting around a kitchen table gazing out into a native garden we immediately formed a bond. They cared deeply about improving habitat for native species and were willing to jump out of their comfort zone into the board rooms to get the backing of their local Park district on this critical issue.”

What at first felt overwhelming quickly became an adventure. They began with Naperville’s 41page Sustainability Plan.   Naperville, as one of Sierra Club’s Cool Cities, has a plan that focuses primarily on energy and transportation policies, development and resources. It was new to Hansen and McTighe and left then feeling proud of their city’s commitment to sustainability. Additional research revealed the city had recently planted a pollinator garden over the garage at the Municipal Center. City staff informed them Naperville had approved a monarch pledge and it would be announced in spring of 2017.

With the city already on board, Hansen and McTighe turned their attention to the Park District. Naperville has 2400 acres of parkland and the two of them set off on a series of mini field trips to familiarize themselves with the local parks, including Knoch Knolls Nature Center.   They found milkweed in a native planting at Knoch Knolls and the building was certified LEED Platinum with many state of the art sustainability features.

Pride in their community continued to grow.

Hansen and McTighe encountered a reservoir of support for monarchs when they reached out to local gardening groups. Members of the Naperville Community Gardeners raised their hands in support within minutes of hearing about the monarch resolution.

Confidence grew every step of the way from the encouragement and warm, supportive responses they received. The City and Park District were already taking action to help pollinators, the community was eager to support a resolution, and they were speaking on behalf of a county-wide initiative. Within a few short months of becoming DuPage Monarch Project spokespersons, the Naperville Park District signed a Monarch Resolution.

“It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you have a passion,” said McTighe. “Follow you heart and passions and know there are great rewards in making a difference.”

Glen Ellyn Partnership Working on Behalf of Monarchs

The Village of Glen Ellyn will become a haven for butterflies thanks to a partnership with The Conservation Foundation as part of its Conservation In Our Community program.

The program kicks off with a free workshop, “Invite Nature Into Your Yard,” at the Glen Ellyn Civic Center on Wednesday, March 15 from 7 to 9 p.m. The program will introduce residents to The Conservation Foundation’s popular Conservation@Home program encouraging the use of native plant species for landscaping yards.

“We’re delighted that Glen Ellyn is demonstrating a commitment to conservation by getting everyone involved,” Program Director Jan Roehll said.

Glen Ellyn and the Glen Ellyn Park District join six other DuPage County communities ­— Carol Stream, Downers Grove, Elmhurst, Naperville, Warrenville, and Lisle — to engage citizens to become conservation-conscious through various sustainable local projects.

Homeowners will learn what plants attract butterflies as part of the Fox Valley Monarch Corridor Project to restore habitats along the migratory routes of this threatened species. Those involved can become Conservation@Home certified and participate in a garden walk of the homes in the program later this summer.

Plans also are underway to work with the village and park district to plant The Conservation Foundation’s Pollinator Meadow Mix to attract butterflies and other native species. Meadow Mix is an alternative to traditional turf grass in public areas and around municipal buildings and requires minimal upkeep.

The Conservation In Our Community program is possible through a $20,000 grant from the DuPage Foundation with support from DuPage County Stormwater Management. Each municipality has contributed a small portion to help fund this effort and The Conservation Foundation will provide the guidance needed to help implement the projects.

For information on Conservation In Our Community, call Jan Roehll, (630) 428-4500, ext. 121 or emailjroehll@theconservationfoundation.org.

The Conservation Foundation, celebrating its 45th anniversary in 2017, is one of the region’s oldest and largest not-for-profit land and watershed conservation organizations. Since it was founded in 1972, TCF has helped preserve nearly 33,000 acres of open space, restored and cleaned miles of rivers and streams, and educated thousands of kids by engaging them in nature and the outdoors.

Work is focused in DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Will Counties to preserve and restore nature in your neighborhood. Find out more at theconservationfoundation.org.

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