Saturday, October 16, 2021

Butterflies Are Free

You may have noticed some new inhabitants in the Calusa Park Butterfly Garden of late.

The Calusa Garden Club recently led the release of 125 of the elegant, graceful, multihued insects at the garden to mark its 10th anniversary. About 45 people attended the event, including club members, friends and family and other community members.

“It’s survived 10 years,” Susan LaGrotta, chairperson of the club’s Butterfly Garden Committee, told the assemblage before the butterflies were freed. “The first three (years), we didn’t have any water. We would run across from the baseball field with coolers of water to water the plants.”

LaGrotta and the other attendees stood on a cement walkway bordered by an impressive array of well-tended and healthy native plants and flowers, a far cry from the garden’s rustic beginnings.

Located off Winterberry Drive, Calusa Park is a one-half-mile linear park originally deeded to Marco as greenspace by the island’s original developers, the Mackle Brothers. The garden was planted by the club’s members, along with members of the City of Marco Island Beautification Advisory Committee (BAC) and city staff. The club raised $10,000 that it donated to the city to plant the garden, as well as the marker and plants on the Sandhill berm at Winterberry Drive.

Photos by Don Manley | Susan LaGrotta cheerfully lets everyone know the ceremony is about to begin.

Volunteers from the club maintain the garden and provide community outreach and funding comes from the club, as well as the BAC.

“We’re encouraging native habitats and the wildlife that live here,” added LaGrotta, who also noted that pesticides aren’t used there and fertilizers are applied rarely. “We’re promoting environmental awareness. Butterflies go from one plant to another and a lot of plants depend on butterflies for pollination.”

Looking on as she spoke were fellow Butterfly Garden Committee members Kathy McNabb, Linda Colombo, Maria Lamb, Mary McIntosh, Syd Mellinger, Sue Oldershaw and Donna Kaye.

The butterflies were purchased by participants in the event, which occurred just before Easter and also served to honor the memories of loved ones who have passed away.

Regina Dayton and her husband were among those who attended the butterfly release.

“I think it’s a beautiful thing to support the garden,” said Regina Dayton. “But I also think that during Holy Week, Susan’s comments about life, resurrection and the beauty of beyond were so telling. So this was an important thing for me to do to remember members of my family.”

This was the first butterfly release at the park and LaGrotta said the club would like it to become an annual event.

“This way we can introduce people to the garden so they can enjoy it,” she added. “It’s for the City of Marco and the residents so we’d love for them to enjoy it. Doing this type of event brings people out to see this part of their city.”

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