Fenton — Fenton’s Butterfly Garden is a statewide recognized feature in the city.
On Wednesday, Aug. 30, the Butterfly Garden in Fenton was officially designated one of the 2023 Community Landscape Beautification Award winners.
Standing next to the stainless steel, 9½-feet high and 9-feet wide butterfly sculpture, Amy Upton, executive director of the Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association (MNLA), presented the award to Pat Lockwood, Fenton mayor pro-tem, and Dawn Overmyer, chair of the Fenton Beautification Commission during a ceremony on Wednesday.
“Our board’s vision with this award was to reward groups and projects around the state that embody the definition of community through plants and green spaces. You exemplify this vision with all that you did here with your butterfly garden,” she said. “We’re pleased to be here today to recognize the city of Fenton with our Plant Michigan Green Community Landscape Beautification Award.”
The MNLA’s Community Landscape Beautification Award Program recognizes outstanding communities for their excellence in improving the physical and aesthetic environment of their neighborhoods and in raising the awareness of the positive economic growth and environmental impacts that quality landscaping brings to Michigan’s communities.
These projects are designed to enhance the visual image of the neighborhoods, improve livability, build civic pride and promote community spirit.
“Our Plant Michigan Green Initiative was developed to raise awareness of the positive economic and environmental impacts that landscaping brings to Michigan,” Upton said. “They have to excel in the areas of craftsmanship, proper horticultural practices and… make a contribution to the quality of the environment…All of the projects that come in, they’re judged by industry professionals and not all of the projects receive an award. This one I’m happy to say received an award.”
One part of the criteria is the overall effect and the impact on the area. The Fenton Butterfly garden received a high score in this area for creating a space that attracts pollinators as well as a space that educates the public and allows them to enjoy the outdoor environment.
Another part of the criteria is the quality and sustainability of the plant materials.
“Again, a high score for the native plant and pollinator friendly selections that were chosen and for the wonderful array of colors in the garden,” Upton said. “They especially like that your chosen plant materials serve as a monarch way station as they journey south each year.”
The garden received a high score in the criteria of overall project design as well as a high score in quality of construction and project elements. Judges liked the selection of pavers and the night lighting in the garden.
“In addition, the judges appreciate the collaboration and partnership and commented that this was truly a community effort. The beautification commission worked with the city of Fenton to raise funds and build the butterfly garden, they thought that was great. The partnership of the beautification commission in the city of Fenton’s Department of Public Works team, Sarah Angus, your master gardener for the continued maintenance of the garden,” Upton said.
Upton gave a special recognition to the Fenton DPW master gardener Sarah Angus, Fenton Home Furnishings’ Gerry and Kay Willey for the Butterfly Sculpture made by artist James Havens, and the Fenton Beautification Commission. She also recognized Tessa Stickel, communications coordinator and marketing manager for Fenton.
State Sen. Lana Theis, of the 22nd district, attended and presented Lockwood and Overmyer
“Sarah, I just want to say as someone who can’t even make my lawn look nice, I am so grateful for what you’ve done here. It’s extraordinary. Dawn, your work is amazing. What we wanted to do from the state is to recognize these efforts. A lot of people walk by and they won’t notice how much went into this…I just want to say congratulations. It’s not easy to create this. It’s even harder to be recognized statewide for it and you were.”
On behalf of the city, Lockwood thanked Upton for the award and also thanked the administration and city employees who worked on the award. They started this project in 2018. Lockwood also recognized the Fenton Downtown Development Authority.
“Thanks to the Willey family, who are here with us today. Thank you so much for the generous donation. We brought it up from the river here, planted it, and all of a sudden it became the biggest attraction in the city,” she said.
Lockwood said they’re appreciative of Sen. Theis attending and for the recognition.
“Thank you so much. This is a great award. I know that we’ll have a place of honor in the city hall. Thank you very much,” Overmyer said.
Background of Fenton’s Butterfly Garden
In 2017, local businessman Gerry Willey admired the butterfly sculpture at the gazebo park so much that he and his wife Kay donated $17,000 so the city, through the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), could acquire the piece for permanent display. The sculpture, called “Stainless Steel Butterfly,” was created by internationally known Ohio artist James Havens, a retired steel union worker.
This sculpture, which weighs about 700 pounds, was part of the Midwest Sculpture Initiative that partners every year with the Fenton Downtown Development Authority (DDA) to bring quality sculptures downtown for display and enjoyment of the arts. The sculpture was moved from the river area to its current location in 2018. A landscape architect with the city’s engineering firm put together a concept drawing of what that greenbelt area might look like with a butterfly garden.
Although $35,000 was approved for the original project in 2018, cost increased to $52,000 due to the addition of safety features including new concrete steps and lighting. The need for stainless steel handrails with anti-skateboarding devices eventually brought the final cost up to approximately $65,200.
In May 2019, city officials and the Willeys took part in a dedication of the butterfly garden.