County marina butterfly garden gets an upgrade

Staff writer

The butterfly garden at James City County Marina has a new look thanks to an Eagle Scout Service Project.

The project, which replaced the dirt pathways that meandered around the garden with stone pavers and repaired raised garden beds, makes the garden a more appealing place to visitors, said Brian Taber, president of the Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory.

“Pathways are nicer for visitors because there are no weeds,” he said as the project was underway Sunday morning. “It’s going to look a whole lot nicer.”

Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory manages the roughly 4,356-square-foot garden located at the marina. The space allows the conservation group to study butterflies, and has the added bonus of lending some beauty to the marina.

Now visitors will be able to enjoy that beauty a little more easily with improved pathways. Phelan Daum, a Eagle Scout candidate in charge of the project, became familiar with the space through his time DJ’ing at the nearby Billsburg Brewery with his dad, Jay Daum.

The garden looked a little worse for wear. Daum needed a service project to attain Eagle Scout status, and sprucing up the place seemed like a perfect opportunity to help the community.

“The garden was just really run down. It was all withered and looked dead,” said Daum, who had a few helping hands with him, including his dad, mom and Eagle Scout brother James.

Eco Discovery Park originally planted the garden, and the space fell into neglect after the group stopped operating at the marina in 2015.

Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory approached Billsburg, which rents the property the garden occupies from the county, about replanting the garden and got permission to replant it from the county in January 2018.

“I know people who have plants. I have plants. We just mixed and matched and got it going on a real shoestring budget. There really wasn’t anything needed but a little bit of love,” Taber said.

Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory uses the roughly 4,356-square-foot garden to study butterflies, and plants inside the garden are selected to attract the insects. The nonprofit group has existed for more than two decades and operates similar gardens elsewhere in the region, such as on the Eastern Shore.

“We’re attracting them for our study because we do butterfly research. The other part of it is education for people who just want to see a garden and learn,” Taber said.

For more information about the Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory, visit

Jack Jacobs, 757-298-6007,, @jajacobs_

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