• Investment will transform 150-acres of hayfields into a habitat for monarch butterflies, become model for pollinator conservation efforts in Missouri
Maramec Spring Park will soon become a haven for monarch butterflies, bees, and other pollinators in decline, as nearly 150 acres of park land are transformed into a massive pollinator habitat, thanks, in part, to a $20,000 grant announced on June 13.
The grant was made by The New York Community Trust through The James Foundation and will support a planning partnership with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation to determine how best to convert former hayfields and other parcels at the park into habitat for migratory monarch butterflies and other threatened species.
The Eastern monarch population has decreased by between 60 to 90 percent since the mid-1990s. The butterfly depends on wild milkweed, which has been decimated by changing agricultural practices and increased use of herbicides.
Experts believe that creating new habitat along the butterfly’s migratory pathways is critical to the future health of the population.
“It’s really exciting to be able to convert these fields into something that will help pollinators and monarchs,” said Wesley Swee, assistant regional manager for The James Foundation, which manages Maramec Spring Park. “This project is going to add a whole new dimension to the park.”
Last week’s announcement, which coincides with National Pollinator Week, kick starts what is expected to be a three-year effort to transform large swaths of the park into a blossoming pollinator paradise.
Monarchs are the only butterfly species to migrate annually in North America; their multigenerational migration spans from Canada to Mexico. Maramec Spring Park is located along one of the main migratory pathways monarchs use to fly north and south every year, making it generally well-suited for monarch conservation efforts.
The Park is also on the edge of the monarch spring breeding territory essential to their northward migration. As a result, the Park could play double duty in supporting the life cycle of North America’s migratory monarch butterflies, while also providing healthy habitat for dozens of other pollinator species, including the endangered Rusty Patched Bumble Bee.
The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation will provide technical assistance and planning support for the effort. Established in 1971, it focuses on pollinator conservation, pesticide reduction, endangered species, and aquatic systems through applied research, advocacy, education and policy changes. Since 2008, Xerces has restored or protected 692,000 acres of pollinator habitat on U.S. farmlands.
“Maramec Spring Park is a beautiful place with so much to offer for pollinator and monarch conservation both in terms of habitat and outreach,” according to Stephanie Frischie, agronomist and native plant materials specialist with The Xerces Society. “The current habitat of existing woodlands, native wildflowers, and pollinator gardens will be greatly multiplied by the conversion of the hayfields and addition of educational trails.”
Once the pollinator habitat is established, Maramec Spring Park staff will create trails making it accessible for hikes and interpretive programs. In time, officials say they hope it will become a model for other large-scale efforts to create pollinator habitats in Missouri.
“Ultimately, we see this as a way to help a species in decline and to help expand understanding about the importance of monarchs and other pollinators,” Swee said.
Maramec Spring Park is a privately owned park owned and operated by The James Foundation. The park is home to Missouri’s fifth-largest natural spring and contains 1,860 acres of forest and fields. Its 200-acre public-use area includes a cafe, store, camping, wildlife viewing, fish feeding, picnicking, shelters, playgrounds, and fishing. For more information, visit us at www.maramecspringpark.com.
Assistant Regional Manager for The James Foundation Wesley Swee shows off some of the fields that will be converted a native wildflower pollinator habitat at Maramec Spring Park.
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