Parks have long been recognized as places to recreate and to experience natural beauty. Preserving natural landscapes for wildlife conservation is becoming an increasingly important part of the many amenities that parks provide in a rapidly developing world. As native landscapes continue to disappear, parks have an important role to play in their preservation and restoration.
This role is strikingly evident in the case of the monarch butterfly. The eastern North American monarch population has diminished by over 90% during the past few decades, and national strategies have called for an “all hands on deck” approach to restoring the population to a sustainable level. One of the best ways to achieve that goal is to create and enhance habitat for monarchs, and parks are ideal places to do so.
Last year, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) “announced the Parks for Monarchs campaign, an initiative to encourage park and recreation agencies across the nation to collectively show the power of parks as we work to save the monarch butterfly” (Parks Saving the Monarch, 2016). A Monarch Joint Venture partner, NRPA is working to create a network of habitat in parks across the country. The campaign has more than 500 park and recreation agencies actively engaged in monarch conservation activities creating habitat, conducting educational programs and engaging volunteers in citizen science and monitoring.
One uplifting park conservation story is taking place at the NRPA headquarters in Virginia. In December 2014, Eagle Scout candidate Jacob Schaffner and volunteers from his Boy Scout troop began preparing planting beds for a Monarch Waystation at NRPA headquarters. NRPA’s Monarch Waystation is one of more than 14,000 waystations throughout the United States. The nectar-bearing plants and milkweeds planted in the waystation have grown and flourished since then, and new beds planted by NRPA staff volunteers were added in the spring of 2016. The monarch butterfly below was photographed drawing nectar from a zinnia by Jaclyn Snyder, age 15. Jaclyn and her mom Karen, NRPA’s playground safety manager, stopped by headquarters during this year's Labor Day weekend to hike to a nearby reservoir and visit the waystation to look for monarchs. Jaclyn caught this long-distance traveller at exactly the right moment. (Monarchs Visit NRPA Waystation, 2016)
To promote monarch conservation in parks and provide resources for park managers interested in getting started or expanding their efforts, we are pleased to announce an exciting new resource for parks. NRPA and Monarch Joint Venture have collaborated on a new publication, Parks for Monarchs: A Resource Guide for Monarch Conservation. This new guide provides information and resources on monarch biology, how to create and restore pollinator habitat, how to engage citizen volunteers in monarch conservation and how to make parks not only a refuge for monarchs and other pollinators, but a place where visitors can engage in monarch conservation and build a connection with the park. Click here to download a copy and learn more about the Parks for Monarchs campaign. (Monarchs Visit NRPA Waystation, 2016)
Monarchs Visit NRPA Waystation. Richard Dolesh, National Recreation and Park Association. October 1, 2016. http://www.parksandrecreation.org/2016/October/Monarchs-Visit-NRPA-Waystation/
Parks for Monarchs: A Resource Guide for Monarch Conservation. Monarch Joint Venture & National Recreation and Park Association. 2016. http://monarchjointventure.org/images/uploads/documents/Parks_for_Monarchs_Resources_Guide_FINAL_REVISED.pdf
Parks Saving the Monarch. Richard Dolesh, National Recreation and Park Association. April 1, 2016. http://www.parksandrecreation.org/2016/April/Parks-Saving-the-Monarch/
The Monarch Joint Venture is a national partnership of federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, and academic programs working together to conserve the monarch butterfly migration. The content in this article does not necessarily reflect the positions of all Monarch Joint Venture partners. Header photo by Wendy Caldwell. Body photo by Jaclyn Snyder, in Monarchs Visit NRPA Waystation, 2016.