A butterfly sits on top of a plant at Radium Springs Gardens on Tuesday following dedication ceremony held there for a butterfly pollinator garden that officials say is a step in helping foster the monarch butterfly population in the area.
ALBANY, Ga. -- As part of a collaborative effort by Dougherty County, the Southwest Georgia Master Gardener extension volunteers and Albany Technical College, a dedication program was held Tuesday morning for a butterfly pollinator garden at Radium Springs Gardens.
The idea is to bring in and nurture plants that will help preserve the monarch butterfly population. Butterflies are important to the environment, experts say, because they are able to promote the growth of plant life by picking up pollen and taking it to other plants.
"This will spotlight Albany and spotlight Southwest Georgia," said Dougherty County Cooperative Extension Agent and Master Gardener coordinator James Morgan.
Dougherty County Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard hailed the project as one that will benefit the Southwest Georgia region for generations to come.
"This is all about the next generation and something beautiful we can enjoy," he said. "As growth and development take place, we are losing so many of our natural resources.
"This is something very special. We all know the history of Radium Springs, but we are building a new history today."
Radium Springs Gardens sits on the site of what remains of the former Radium Springs Casino. After major floods in 1994 and 1998, the facility was placed on a federal flood plain demolition list and eventually destroyed.
Turnout at the dedication ceremony included various elected officials, representatives from Albany Tech and participants of the Albany Advocacy Resource Center Adult Day Independent Living Program.
Beyond giving people a place to watch the butterflies, a resource like the Radium garden provides an opportunity to educate the public about the region's more natural elements, officials say.
"I think the reason we saw such a wonderful turnout (at the dedication) is because this is a project that appeals to our higher self," said Suzanna MacIntosh, Master Gardener extension volunteer and co-chair for the project. "As gardeners, we could not have worked with a greater group of people than the ones in Dougherty County.
"This is the end of Phase I. Next year, we will work on a network of butterfly gardens in Southwest Georgia."
Among the plant life now at the gardens is milkweed, which serves as a food source to the monarch butterfly and also a plant on which it will lay its eggs.
"I didn't know until two or three years ago what the relationship between the native plants and the butterfly was," MacIntosh said. "... People love butterflies, young and old. This is a chance to get back to the (simpler) moments in life."
The Southwest Georgia Master Gardener extension volunteers are coordinated through the Dougherty County Extension Office. The butterfly garden at Radium Springs was inspired, at least in part, by the Apalachee Audubon Society and its monarch pollinator garden at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Florida.
The garden was recently certified by the Environmental Education Alliance of Georgia's Monarchs Across Georgia program as a "Pollinator Habitat," a certification that was presented at Tuesday's ceremony by Master Gardener Larry Sellers with the help of Morgan and Southwest Georgia Master Gardener Association President Phyl Strawbridge.