Creating our Monarch waystation was hard work. But in the end, all of the hard work was definitely worth it. And through the experience, I have made connections with people in my community that I would have never made, if I didn't take up this project.
Originally, the Hillside Trail area was a small group of houses (from way back in the 1950's) that had long since been abandoned, and then destroyed. All of the debris from the destruction of the houses made the area unappealing, and a hazard to the environment.
I had decided to make this area, that looked like a dump, into a wonderful area where people from Chatham Township and the surrounding communities can walk trails with their dogs and/or family. I contacted the Chatham Township Open Space Committee, and explained what I had in mind. With the support of the committee secured, I got to work.
I decided to find different natives plants and trees that were deer resistant, and also did well in partial sun. With the help of other volunteers, I took up the non-native invasive plants like Japanese stilt grass, multiflora rose, and wineberry. When that was done, we had to work to groom and prepare the soil for planting our Milkweed, and other pollinator-attracting flowers.
Given the prior history, the site was a real challenge. In almost every hole I dug I found large amounts of debris and rocks, some of them the size of small boulders. It was unclear which of these were naturally occurring and which were from the previous occupants. This part of Chatham is also known for it's hard clay soil, so the digging was not easy. At the end of our first weekend, with the help of some volunteers, we had done about five hours worth of work, and had barely made a dent in the landscape. But I was still determined to make this place into a place where our community could gather and enjoy nature. At the risk of sounding cliche, it takes persistence to drag the dream into existence. We returned to the site many times over the course of the next few months. In the end, we had spent over 80 hours working to get the trail ready for visitors and to make it walkable.
With the help from community members, and connections I have made through the town, we have made a wonderful public space, that also attracts Monarch butterflies and other essential pollinators. It may be just one small waystation along their long migration journey, but I think it will make a difference. Together we can bring back the Monarchs!