Volunteers kick off butterfly habitat at New Quarter Park

jojacobs@vagazette.com

A zebra swallowtail fluttered past Shirley Devan as she took a break from digging up clumps of weeds with a shovel at New Quarter Park.

Volunteers and park officials hope to see more butterflies with the creation of a new butterfly habitat at the park.

“It’s hard work but you get to see the results pretty quickly. In three months, this place will look entirely different,” Devan said.

Devan stood on the edge of a 2-acre piece of meadow nestled in York County’s New Quarter Park. She was one of about 45 volunteers who gathered to pull up invasive plants, spread mulch and introduce plants that will attract pollinators such as birds, bees and especially butterflies.

The park is already a prime spot for butterflies. With a new butterfly habitat, hopefully even more will come, said Devan, who has been a 10-year member of the local Historic Rivers chapter of Virginia Master Naturalists, a state educational and outreach organization.

“One of our goals is stewardship and conservation of habitat. We’re all about butterflies and wildlife conservation,” she said. “New Quarter Park is one of the butterfly hot spots.”

“This area is just perfect. We’re trying to make it attractive for visitors as well,” said Devan, adding that the space will feature a trail to allow people access to the habitat.

Student Conservation Association, which is a national environmental nonprofit group that engages high school and college students, also assisted volunteers.

The habitat will take over the site of the park’s Bobwhite Quail Habitat, which has existed for 10 years and was selected for a redo because the area hasn’t been successful in its goal of attracting the birds.

About three or four years ago, a section of that habitat was planted with native plant species that attract butterflies but it become overgrown over time, Master naturalist Rick Brown said.

Among the plants intended for the space are kinds that provide food for caterpillars. The habitat will require continued attention to attract butterflies desirable, Brown said.

“It’s like any garden. Once you plant we have to come in and weed it and maintain it,” Brown said.

Just as it’ll be a longterm effort to maintain the habitat, it’ll take a more than a few hours to build it.

“We’re trying to establish it today,” New Quarter Park Supervisor Micahael Wilcox said.

More projects to build the habitat are slated for the future, and volunteers will eventually fill out the habitat piece by piece, a process that could take between three and five years, Wilcox said.

Later this spring Wilcox hopes to plant 120 milkweed plants at the habitat, which will attract monarch butterflies.

Close to 200 flowers and shrubs have been donated to the project from a variety of sources, including Colonial Williamsburg. The habitat is the first butterfly habitat of its size at the park, which already has a smaller habitat, Wilcox said.

Jacobs can be reached by phone at 757-298-6007.

Copyright © 2018, The Virginia Gazette
54°