Community Pitches in to Create Butterfly Garden

Alameda youth spread dirt around the Monarch Butterfly habitat as part of the volunteer park beautification program, Operation Green Sweep, this summer.
Dorothy Freeman

Community Pitches in to Create Butterfly Garden

Sun Staff Reports

Volunteers from Jean Sweeney Park Foundation, the Kiwanis Club of Alameda and the Alameda Rotary Club planted 31 California native plants to attract Monarch butterflies to the open space park Saturday, Aug. 21.

The group placed nectar plants in the newly established butterfly habitat along the Sherman Street entrance to the park. Nectar plants provide nourishment for Monarch Butterflies. The next step will be to grow milkweed plants which is the only source of food for the Monarch caterpillar. There are also plans to install a small telescope at the perimeter so children can see the development of the butterflies from larvae to maturity.

Jean Sweeney Park will now be able to register with the Monarch Waystation Program, which was established in 2005 to provide information about how to create habitats for monarchs.

The Alameda Recreation and Parks Department (ARPD), board members of the Jean Sweeney Open Space Park Fund and the Alameda community all contributed to create the Monarch Butterfly habitat. Dorothy Freeman, board director of the Jean Sweeney Park Foundation, proposed and researched the project, including which plants to grow and their distribution around the space by mature height.

The habitat would not have been built as fast without the help from ARPD staff. ARPD provided the logs, the dirt and necessary water for irrigation.

The drip irrigation system is vital to ensure the habitat’s viability. The irrigation system was built by ARPD staff and 30 tweens and teens as part of the volunteer park beautification program, Operation Green Sweep. Operation Green Sweep youth worked in the Jean Sweeney Park for six weeks during which they spread the dirt and installed the drip system for the Monarch Butterfly garden. They also helped clean benches for painting and pulled weeds. ARPD’s Brandon Candler supervised and facilitated the group over the six weeks of the program this summer. The regular workday for volunteers is the third Saturday of each month from 10 to 11:30 a.m.

Community members donated the funding used to buy supplies and the native California plants.

The survival of the California Monarchs is being threatened by the loss of their natural habitat. While many Alameda families have created habitats in their yards to help the butterflies survive, the new space in the Jean Sweeney Park will add a larger habitat. Volunteers believe that this new habitat can educate people on what can be done to help the Monarchs survive while their natural habitats are being recreated by the State of California Environmental Defense Fund.

Monarch Butterflies make Alameda their home and even winter here after migrating from inland California. It takes about 21 to 35 days for the Monarchs to undergo complete metamorphosis from egg to butterfly. The Monarch Butterfly can live from six to nine months.

The Jean Sweeney Open Space Fund is a non-profit organization that provides funding assistance to ARPD for the park. To donate to the fund, visit sweeneyopenspacepark.owworg/misc/donate.html.