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.”

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