While Villa Park residents enjoy movies, concerts and Saturday morning children’s programs this summer, monarch butterflies are finding a welcoming place to lay their eggs and dine on milkweed.
A long time gathering spot for summer activities and bike riders, Cortesi Veterans Memorial Park became a monarch waystation in September 2017 when five butterfly gardens were planted. Villa Park is one of 14 municipal entities in DuPage County that have pledged to be monarch friendly by providing habitat, reducing pesticide usage, and educating residents about the plight of the monarch.
The location for the Five Butterfly Waystations along the Great Western Trail as the project is known, was selected for its intersection of people and bike riders and a desire to upgrade a faded mural which provides a backdrop for the gardens.
The butterfly habitat project is a collaboration of the Villa Park Economic Commission, Environmental Commission, Kenilworth Watch Group, Community Pride Commission, Villa Park Garden Club, The Conservation Foundation and DuPage Monarch Project. Over 25 volunteers turned out to plant the nectar and larval species butterflies rely upon. Jim Kleinwachter and Jan Roehl of The Conservation Foundation supplied the designs and facilitated ordering 700 plants from Midwest Groundcovers.
Volunteers at the planting were astonished when Kim White, volunteer educator with DuPage Monarch Project, explained how an injured butterfly wing is repaired, showing the box of spare wings she keeps for the procedure. Butterfly education will be ongoing when interpretative signage is added to the gardens in upcoming months. Plans call for repainting the mural behind the gardens with images showing the life cycle of monarch butterflies. A design contest is being considered for the fall with painting completed in spring of 2019.
Nine months after the garden was planted, several monarch caterpillars were observed happily munching milkweed. “The monarch population has suffered drastic declines in the past several years,” said Lonnie Morris, Coordinator for the DuPage Monarch Project. “It is encouraging to see how quickly they made use of the new habitat. We’re delighted Villa Park is thinking of monarchs as valuable members of their community and providing what they need.”