Construction on the new Pollinator Paradise addition to the Dickinson County Nature Center in Okoboji is officially underway.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held Tuesday, July 11, at the nature center, and construction will continue through March 2018. Fundraising is ongoing for Phase 2 of the project, which will be completion of children’s-museum quality exhibits on the interior of the building.
The Butterfly House was first constructed in Kenue Park more than 10 years ago thanks to the generosity of Delores Maser, and she came to the conservation board earlier this year with the idea of expanding this seasonal attraction into a Pollinator Paradise addition to the nature center that could be open to the public year-round.
“Butterflies and flowers have been my lifelong passion since I was a toddler,” Maser said during the groundbreaking. “In the last 30 years, actually, my observance has been that we have been losing those insects, those invertebrates, those pollinators. We have a nature preserve, my husband and I, and some land here and there, and I have observed this and it has made me really sad. Then I started seeing other people are recognizing that.”
Pollinator Paradise will be the first educational institution in the state, if not the country, to have a pollinator-centric building, focused on the importance of pollinators and the issues surrounding their dwindling populations. The upper level of the addition on the north side of the Dickinson County Nature Center will feature children’s-museum quality educational exhibits including life-size honeycomb, an indoor beehive, a pollen-collecting game, a monarch-rearing enclosure and more.
It will also house an indoor greenhouse where pollinator-friendly plants will be grown and sold to encourage people to plant native plant species in their own landscaping for our butterflies and bees.
The lower level of the addition will have mechanical and storage areas as well as a classroom space for environmental education programs.
“The conservation board is passionate about protecting Iowa’s pollinators, from butterflies to bees to hummingbirds and bats,” said Kiley Roth, community relations coordinator for the Dickinson County Conservation Board. “Pollinator Paradise will be a wonderful tourist attraction with plenty of hands-on education for all ages. We hope this will foster an appreciation for nature, especially pollinators, in visitors so they will go home and make a difference in their own landscapes for these precious creatures.”
Pollinator issues are on the forefront of the minds of many conservationists. Monarch populations have dwindled up to 90 percent in the last quarter-century due to lack of milkweed habitat and native nectar food sources as well as deforestation of overwintering sites in Mexico.
Honeybee populations have struggled, with 50 percent or more of Iowa’s beekeepers losing their hives in past winters due to disease, neonictinoid uses and colony collapse disorder. Even native bee populations are suffering, and the Iowa native rusty-patched bumblebee was the first continental bee species to be placed on the endangered species list.
Approximately $675,000 has been raised to date, and fundraising for Phase 2, which will be the completion of the interior of the building, is currently underway.
To donate to the project, contact the Dickinson County Nature Center at 712-336-6352. You can also find out more information about the Pollinator Paradise addition here.