Last August the Native Plant Society entered into a cooperative agreement with the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) which will provide funding and technical assistance to enable the Society to plan, establish and maintain Monarch butterfly waystations at safety rest areas along Interstate 35. The agreement stipulates a minimum of two waystations with interpretative signage on Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) property. Four sites were selected for implementation, including two matching safety rest areas in Bell County and two matching rest areas in Hill County.
The State Board appointed a committee to plan and implement the project with Kay Jenkins as chair, and members Carol Feldman, Bill Hopkins, Merita Knapp and Ilse Meier.
The committee visited the rest areas and Carol Feldman prepared site plans indicating the beds where the proposed waystations would be established. The waystations would consist of approximately 1,000 square feet in each of the two Bell County rest areas and approximately 2,000 square feet in each of the two Hill County rest areas. The proposed beds were approved in a meeting of representatives of the three managing entities (USFWS, TxDOT and the Native Plant Society) on May 11.
Milkweed seeds of three species – Asclepias asperula, A. tuberosa and A. viridis – have been purchased and planted in seedling trays. Germination was successful for all three species and the seedlings will be repotted into one-gallon containers for fall planting. The committee is finalizing the plant list that will then be submitted to USFWS and TxDOT for approval. Plant donations are being sought to reduce project costs.
Possible interpretative media include panels similar to those already at the sites, photo spots within the gardens with butterfly sculptures or benches, and interpretive programs.
Events are planned to coordinate with the upcoming Fall Symposium. Thursday October 13 will be Welcome the Monarchs Field Day. Attendees will have the opportunity to help with planting the waystations, and they can also, or instead, visit staffed outreach booths on site. This event will be hosted at the Hill County Safety Rest Area, northbound on Interstate 35 (exit 362A). A smaller event will be offered on the following Sunday.
Volunteers are needed not only for the field days but for preparing seedlings and beds, planting and maintenance.