CREATING SOME BUZZ: Nature Center plans $1.7 million 'Pollinator Paradise'

Tuesday, February 28, 2017
"We are losing our pollinators at an alarming rate. It is an international problem," Dickinson County Conservation Board Executive Director Lee Sorenson said.
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Butterflies, bees of all kinds, hummingbirds, moths and ants are all pollinators, affecting the entire food source on planet earth.

"We are losing our pollinators at an alarming rate," Dickinson County Conservation Board Executive Director Lee Sorenson, said. "It is an international problem with a 58 percent decline in the honeybee population in the past 59 years and a 90 percent decline in monarch butterflies in the last 20 years alone."

The Dickinson County Conservation Foundation is going to do something about the problem locally. Sorenson announced the launch of a campaign to construct a $1.7 million addition to the north side of the Dickinson County Nature Center in Okoboji.

"It will be called Pollinator Paradise," Sorenson said. "It will be 2,000 square feet on the main floor with storage for us on the lower level." Some components of Pollinator Paradise will include educational and interactive exhibits, selling of pollinator plants, indoor beehives and the incorporation of the current Butterfly House into the addition.

"The Butterfly House is now a seasonal place but moving it into our main building is a plus because we can continue to raise and release butterflies, and will be open to the public year-round."

The original Butterfly House was a project built by Lakes Area residents Al and Delores Maser.

"This pollinator project is possible because of the backing of the Masers. They are enthusiastic supporters of this new endeavor," Sorenson said.

The director said between $500,000 and $600,000 of the $1.7 million is needed to begin construction.

"That full cost of the project includes not only the building but the cost of exhibits and an endowment to fund its future," he said. The board hopes to begin construction this summer if the funding comes in.

Dickinson County is forging ahead into new territory with the Pollinator Paradise.

"Across Iowa, the pollinator problem has not been addressed," Sorenson said. "Now here in this county we are going to do something about it. I read yesterday that Linn County has just passed funding to plant 1,000 pollinator plants to help their area. People are beginning to catch on to this serious problem."

Sorenson also said Delores Maser does an outstanding job spearheading the annual Bee and Butterfly Festival each summer. About 600 people participated in 2016.

The Dickinson County Conservation Foundation is a 501C3 non-profit so all donations to the Pollinator Paradise project are tax-deductible.

Sorenson hopes Dickinson County will be able to have an impact, at least in this part of the state, on this major issue effecting the entire food source of the region.

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