FRANKFORT — More than a dozen Kentucky State Parks are working on projects to help Monarch butterflies by preserving habitat and planting milkweed plants the butterflies need for survival.
The butterflies – easily identified because of their orange and black colors – are known for their annual journeys to Mexico each year for winter hibernation. Some scientists are concerned that loss of habitat is causing a decline in the Monarch population in some areas.
Five state parks – Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, Lake Barkley State Resort Park, Waveland State Historic Site, Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site and John James Audubon State Park – are certified Monarch “waystations” through Monarch Watch, a group working to protect the butterflies. The park system also uses a children’s menu that illustrated the life cycle of Monarch butterflies, designed by the Garden Club of Kentucky.
“We’re very proud at Kentucky State Parks to be part of this initiative to educate people about these special insects,” Parks Commissioner Elaine Walker said in a news release. “This shows that we all can make a difference and do something to preserve a part of our natural world.”
Ten other parks are in the process of getting certified or have planted milkweed plants. The waystations are places where milkweeds are planted to provide food and a place for Monarchs to lay their eggs.
Lincoln Homestead State Park near Springfield reduced mowing and the use of chemicals to allow a 10,000-square-foot section area to grow milkweed over the last two years. Monarchs have been seen on the area.
The park system began working on the Monarch project in 2013 with the Garden Club of Kentucky.
“We began working with state parks in 2013 and many of them expressed interest in the waystation project,” Joanna Kirby, who served as president of the Garden Club of Kentucky from 2013-2015, said. “The parks have been a great way to spread the word about this program and help us explain why it’s important.”
Gov. Steve Beshear has proclaimed September as “Monarch Butterfly Awareness Month” for Kentucky. Three parks have special events planned in September related to Monarch butterflies.
Jenny Wiley State Resort Park in Prestonsburg is hosting a “Butterfly and Native Plant Weekend” Sept. 25-27 that will feature seminars, workshops, field trips and Monarch tagging. A two-night lodging package that includes meals and program registration is available for $250 a person. Registration for the program is $30 a person. Call 1-800-325-0142 for reservations and information.
John James Audubon State Park in Henderson will present its “Monarch Butterfly Migration Mysteries” program on Sept. 12 and 19. Guests will learn about Monarch migration and then go out and tag Monarchs to study where they travel. The cost is $5 a person or $15 for a family. Programs start at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. each day. Call 270-826-2247.
Natural Bridge State Resort Park is hosting its Caterpillar Weekend Sept. 11-12. There will be walks and presentations both days, plenty of photographic opportunities, and programs for kids. The fee is $10 for adults and $5 for youths 17 and under. Call the park at 1-606-663-2214 for more information.