Grant's Getaway: A butterfly playground

Grant's Getaways: A Butterfly Playground

It is now the heart of the summer season across Oregon – a bit of a blissful time marked by long warm days that invite you to linger longer in the outdoors.

In one small Oregon town, it’s also the busiest time of the year for the flying insects that some say, speak to our hearts: butterflies!

In Elkton, Oregon the local residents are doing amazing things to help Oregon’s native butterflies through lessons and actions that prove – if you build the habitat, the butterflies will come.

The traffic on State Highway 38 speeds by at an ear-shattering rate near Elkton, Oregon in Douglas County – but step inside the town’s Community Education Center and be prepared to be amazed!

“I think every one of us has a memory of a butterfly dancing across the sky,” noted Education Center Director, Marjory Hamann. "It’s that sense of awe and how still people can become when they have direct engagement with the butterflies – it seems to be touching something in every one of us.”

Nature reigns supreme inside the Butterfly Pavilion at the 30-acre Elkton Center where monarch and painted lady butterflies seem to pose or preen while you are held spellbound watching a monarch come to life.

Grace Whitley is a sophomore at Elkton High School and she can tell you much about each of the butterfly’s life. For example, a butterfly’s vision is amazing, for each has up to 17,000 eyes. Plus, the tiny insects can see color up to 100 feet away.

Whitey and 17 other local students work at the center following a passion to teach visitors about each phase of butterfly life.

“They smell with their antenna, they taste with their feet and then they eat with their proboscis which is their tongue,” said Whitley with a giggle. “They are fascinating creatures in every phase of their lives.”

The Butterfly Pavilion is but one stop at this unique Oregon destination that sprawls across a former sheep pasture.

Since 1999, the local residents of the community have transformed the property into a botanical garden that grows scores of butterfly-friendly plants.

Two years ago, Barb Slott, a retired wildlife biologist, now one of the Center’s Butterfly Stewards, said that she moved to Elkton after just one visit to the Education Center. Now, she’s a regular volunteer – as are scores of other residents.

“To come and see this resource in a town of just 200 people just blew me away,” noted Slott. “Our community of Elkton is concerned about itself! We want to see this as a place for families and retirees and for businesses to grow.”

The center also grows much-in-demand native plants and flowers that you can buy.

For example, you will find Milkweed that is a host plant for monarchs during their caterpillar phase or the gorgeous perennial flower called Bee Balm – that provides nectar during the monarch’s butterfly phase.

The Elkton Community Education Center was recently awarded a grant from the Travel Oregon Forever Fund.

The generous financial aid will allow the center to grow even more plants for sale and conduct even more workshops for visitors.

“It’s extremely helpful to have a source of funding that says, ‘We’ll front you the money first, while you get your legs under you’ and then let it be self-sustaining over time, said Director Hamann.

The Elkton Community Education Center is a remarkable example that is built around a simple premise: a small town can do great big things!


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