On Thursday June 23, Rotarians and community members gathered bright and early at River Park to celebrate the dedication of the park’s new butterfly garden, which was designed and installed by the Rotary Club of Dawson County.
The garden features a wide array of butterfly-friendly plants, signs with information about the plants and about butterflies and a tall metal butterfly sculpture in the center. The area also includes picnic tables and a pavilion for use by park visitors.
During the dedication ceremony, Rotary District Governor Mike Berg explained that, while not every Rotary governor has a theme for their year, he decided to make his theme protecting the environment, mirroring the seventh area of focus by Rotary International. With this theme, he challenged each of the 71 clubs in his district to complete an environmental project.
“I asked each of the clubs that I visited to have an environmental project so that they could understand how they fit in with the country that’s around them,” Berg said. “It (the Rotary Club of Dawson County) won the environmental club of the year award along with being club of the year.”
Brooke Anderson, one of the two Rotarians who helped spearhead the butterfly garden project, said that the space at River Park was a great place to install the butterfly garden.
"This is a fantastic area; it’s completely under-utilized,” Anderson said. “It’s fenced-in and a secure area for kids to come out and play kickball or soccer or whatever they want to do but they needed a reason to be here, so the butterfly garden as well as the information signs and the learning experience that they have combined with the pavilion and the picnic table is gonna allow folks to come out and enjoy them for years to come.”
As with so many of the club’s other projects, the butterfly garden was in collaboration with Dawson County and Dawson County Parks and Rec. Parks and Rec Director Matt Payne said that projects like the butterfly garden are great additions to any of the county’s parks.
“One of the joys of my tenure here has been working with Rotary; we’re the beneficiaries of everything that you guys have done for us and I speak all the time about the foot traffic of every project that you have done for us is tremendous,” Payne said during the dedication ceremony. “A lot of people see the signs and they know it’s a Rotary and they don’t know what all goes into it, but they sure do use it tons.”
Dawson County Commission Chair Billy Thurmond also spoke during the dedication ceremony, thanking the club for its efforts on the project and dedicating the butterfly garden to the citizens of Dawson County.
“I’ve never seen a group work so well with the community and do so much for the community; it’s just amazing to see the different groups that we have in Dawson County that are willing to work together and to do stuff for the community,” Thurmond said. “We all know the work that the Rotary Club has done over the years; it’s been phenomenal. This is just another phenomenal project put together by the Rotary Club in collaboration with the county staff and other agencies.”
Jo Brewer, president of the club, thanked everyone in attendance and presented certificates of appreciation to Thurmond for the county, Payne for the parks and rec department, Anderson for his hard work on the project and Georgann Schmalz with the Dawson County Woman’s Club for the other club’s collaboration and help with planting the garden.
Ceremony attendees then released painted lady butterflies into the air at the garden, smiling and laughing as the colorful creatures flew up past the sculpture.
“It’s a testament for us as a club and specifically what we do for the community; if you look around you here just in Rock Creek, with the help of the county and Parks and Rec we’ve been able to put some fantastic things up here and I think we’ll continue to do that because we are an important part of the community,” Berg said. “For us as Rotarians, being here this morning and watching the butterflies go up and down, I think that’s a very positive thing.”
River Park is located on Highway 9 South, between the Rock Creek Sports Complex and Dawson County Middle School.