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LDS Church volunteers help city plant butterfly gardens

A group of more than 50 young single adults from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints converged on three City of Mission parks last Saturday to help create a butterfly pathway to attract Monarch and other species of butterflies.


Mission Parks & Recreation Director Brad Bentsen orchestrated the project, providing the butterfly-friendly plants and other supplies needed and designing the butterfly gardens.  Bentsen said Mission Parks & Rec received a $60,000 grant over a three-year period through the National Butterfly Center to create the butterfly pathway and he plans to plant butterfly gardens in each of the city’s 24 parks.

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The church volunteers planted 450 plants Saturday, including several varieties of butterfly host plants and nectar plants. The host plants serve as food for the caterpillars and the nectar plants will attract and feed the adult butterflies.  But, according to the Texas Parks & Wildlife website, specific plants will attract specific species of caterpillars and butterflies. In fact, some caterpillars will only feed on one particular kind of plant.  So, it’s important to plan a butterfly garden carefully.


That’s where Parks Director Bentsen’s prior experience as a landscape designer is beneficial.


“I studied each plant,” Bentsen said. “It took a while; it’s not a simple design,” he said, adding that each garden includes at least three varieties of host plants and four varieties of nectar plants.  


Bentsen said about 80 percent of the plants he chose for these gardens are native plants and all of them are drought resistant so they’ll stand up to the South Texas heat.  But each garden will have a drip irrigation system to help the young plants get a good start.  


The young single adult volunteers, with the support of the city’s Parks & Rec employees, completed six projects in half a day Saturday, contributing over 200 man-hours of labor.


The project coordinator for the LDS Church group, Andre Romero of McAllen, said, “We’re proud as young adults to be able to give back to the local community, and show others in the community it’s a great way to be of service.  It doesn’t matter where you come from or what you believe in to help out the community.”


He added, “For me it’s awesome to see so many young adults willing to give up their weekend to be able to give to others.”


The projects completed included three butterfly gardens surrounding newly constructed park signs – built by the Parks & Rec “Strike Team” – two at Catholic War Veterans Park, and one at Oblate Park. Another butterfly garden was planted surrounding a new monument being erected adjacent to the CWV Park parking lot. At Lions Park, located on Kika de la Garza Loop, the volunteers planted butterfly plants and trees all along the perimeter of the baseball field, and they also spread 70 tons of pea gravel for the children’s play area.


Bentsen said, “I have designed 6 parks so far – just 18 more to go, plus the city cemeteries. “But we will definitely be a butterfly destination point.”

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