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Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneA golfer prepares to make a hit off the eighth tee over a monarch way station at Stewart Meadows Golf Course.

Butterflies can find respite at Stewart Meadows

Five new monarch butterfly way stations are bringing a burst of color and life to Stewart Meadows Golf Course.

The way stations, to be unveiled Friday, are pollinator gardens with elements of food, shelter and water for the colorful insects. Spread throughout the nine-hole course, the gardens were placed for both golfers and butterflies, according to Robert Coffan, co-founder of Southern Oregon Monarch Advocates.

“These way stations are not only a visual aesthetic for the golf course, but also play an important role in the chain of western monarchs,” Coffan said. “These way stations are creating habitats, creating more life.”

Western monarchs migrate along the West Coast, traveling as far as 40 miles per day, Coffan said. But their population has been declining for years, and recently has been plummeting, he said.

“There are a lot of reasons why, such as habitat loss, pesticides, wildfires, climate change, a whole blend of things,” he said. “But one thing is for sure: This is something we can all affect.”

According to a Native Plants Journal report by Thomas Landis, Southern Oregon Monarch Advocates co-founder, habitat conservation and restoration are necessary for the survival of monarch butterflies.

“Although we cannot directly control overwintering habitat in Mexico, we can create favorable habitat for monarchs as they migrate across North America,” Landis wrote. “With proper habitat, monarch populations can improve.”

And because Southern Oregon is a particularly important stepping stone on the migration route, Coffan said, having more way stations gives butterflies more habitats to help on their journey.

The way stations span from the northern end to the southern end of the golf course, according to Stewart Meadows superintendent Josh Loy. Some are clearly in sight where golfers can admire them while playing, and others are more hidden from view, he said. Each way station covers between 450 and 1,000 square feet.

“I was on the fence about the idea for this at first, because I wasn’t sure how it’d work on a golf course,” Loy said. “But I did like right away that it would bring more color to the course, which is mainly green.

“When I looked into it a little more, I thought, ‘When is the last time that I saw a monarch butterfly in the valley,’ and I couldn’t think of an answer,” he added. “I realized that this is important.”

The new plants include narrowleaf and showy milkweed, Oregon grape, Douglas iris, tiger lilies, yellow eyed grass, Canada goldenrod and red flowering currant.

Stewart Meadows is the first golf course in the state — and likely Pacific Northwest — to have a monarch way station certified by nonprofit Monarch Watch, Coffan said.

“And it’s at our local golf course, right here in Medford,” he said. “We are a very important link in the chain of western monarchs, and these way stations are beautiful, and important for this species on a meaningful level.”

Reach Mail Tribune reporting intern Morgan Theophil at mtheophil@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4485. Follow her on Twitter @morgan_theophil.

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