Q & A with a butterfly advocate, plus the opening of the Westboro Beach Green Gateway

Kitchissippi Times: You are a butterfly advocate! Can you start by giving us a bit of background about yourself?

Clare Grosskleg: My name is Clare Grosskleg and I volunteer with a new registered charity to establish a nature and food-focused educational and activity centre along with teaching gardens.

I became interested in monarchs after reading an article. I was surprised to learn that monarch butterflies are now an at-risk species. I wanted to see what I could do to help so I reached out to a local school. With their support and enthusiasm, I am working with them to create a monarch garden in the adjacent city park. In addition to welcoming monarchs and other pollinators, the garden will enhance school curriculum and add an element of experiential learning.

Clare Grosskleg is encouraging Kitchissippi residents to plant butterfly friendly gardens. She’s pictured here at a butterfly “waystation” on the corner of Churchill and Workman Avenue. Photo by Andrea Tomkins

Why is the issue of monarch habitat so important to you?

CG: As monarch habitat disappears, monarchs disappear. These butterflies are in such serious decline, that they are now at risk of disappearing from the planet. It is now more important than ever to bring public awareness to their cause. When is the last time you saw a monarch butterfly? There are fewer and fewer. And how sad it would be to lose these beautiful butterflies and valuable pollinators.

How are you trying to help the monarchs here in Kitchissippi? 

CG: Anyone can make a difference by encouraging people to plant monarch gardens at their homes, in their neighbourhoods, in their school yards. As well, businesses and organizations can include host and nectar plants in their landscaped gardens. If not a garden, then just a pollinator patch that includes milkweed. It’s a small effort that can make a big difference to this at-risk species.

At a recent social services networking event at the Dovercourt Recreation Centre, I met many good folks, including Catherine Casserly of the Westboro Beach Community Association. Catherine created a lovely neighbourhood garden that not only welcomes monarchs and other pollinators, but also provides community members with a location to pause, visit neighbourhood friends and enjoy the garden.

This year, several people in the neighbourhood started to plant bright flowers in their gardens. The flowers tend to be perennials or self-seeding, so once established, there is not too much work to do. We can even make seeds available. The NCC is joining in by allowing the community to begin work on a meadow called Selby Plains, the lovely open field at the end of Churchill Avenue. That project will get underway in the spring when we have more plants to transplant. Churchill Seniors Centre is also intending to come on board next year, once their renovations are complete.

Our biggest challenge is getting milkweeds established without allowing them to take over. This year, there are many beginning to grow both on the Selby Plains and in the meadow just west of Maplelawn. It will be lovely to see the return of the monarch butterflies and welcome new types of butterflies as well. And the great thing is, it does not even have to cost money to contribute to this goal and anyone of any gardening ability can do it.

What can Kitchissippi residents do to help?

CG: Start your own monarch garden or add a pollinator patch (including milkweed) and encourage others to do the same!

It is getting a little late for planting, but it’s the perfect time to think about swapping seeds with neighbours.

If you want to know more about monarch butterflies and how to create a monarch garden, there are many helpful websites such as monarchwatch.org, davidsuzuki.org, or monarchteacher.ca. Still need inspiration? Watch the documentary, Flight of the Butterflies to experience the wonder of the monarch migration to Mexico.

For more information about this initiative, contact Clare via email at clare@magma.ca.

Westboro Beach Green Gateway

Over the past few years, the corner of Churchill and Workman has been taking shape as an eye-catching and butterfly friendly entrance to Westboro Beach. It’s called the Westboro Beach Green Gateway, and residents are invited to attend the official opening on Sunday August 20 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. There will be music, lemonade, and cookies. Everyone is welcome! There’ll also be a ribbon cutting for a new park bench. Pictured here is Catherine Casserly of the Westboro Beach Community Association, along with Clare Grosskleg

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