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San Antonio's 1st North American Friendship Garden Provides Butterfly Sanctuary

The North American Friendship Garden at Confluence Park opened Thursday following a ribbon-cutting attended by local government leaders and the Counsels General of Canada and Mexico.

The garden, south of downtown, is a collaborative effort by the consulates with the City of San Antonio, San Antonio River Authority and San Antonio River Foundation.

The pollinator garden is designed to provide a sanctuary for Monarch Butterflies during their international migration.

San Antonio artist Gary Sweeney created two art benches for the garden and visitors can also view a bug hotel and take seeds packets from a seed station that can grow plants that attract butterflies.

One of the benches has arrows pointing the butterflies in the directions of Mexico and Canada.

Brian Kirkpatrick
Texas Public Radio
One of the two benches created by Gary Sweeney for the North American Friendship Garden.

“The Mission Reach of the San Antonio River Walk is a shining example of urban ecosystem restoration that was made possible through the successful collaboration of multiple entities and the North American Friendship Garden is yet another example of the great things that can be accomplished when we all work together for a common goal,” said River Authority General Manager Derek Boese. “We are excited for the public to learn about the important role pollinators play in our environment which we hope will inspire them to become good stewards for our creeks and rivers.”

The garden follows United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, (UNESCO) designation of San Antonio as a Creative City of Gastronomy, making the city part of UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network. The City of San Antonio World Heritage Office supports this initiative as pollinators play an important role in the food that we consume, and the San Antonio River serves as a corridor for pollinators like the Monarch Butterfly, according to a news release.

The garden is in the heart of the important Central Flyway, which basically follows I-35 between Mexico and Canada, to help Monarchs flourish.

“Working collaboratively, San Antonio partners can be proud of a legacy of conservation and natural resource protection. From the Edwards Aquifer, to the Bracken Cave Preserve, to the Hardberger Park Land Bridge, and now the North American Friendship Garden, we are investing in natural solutions that support our native wildlife,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg. “I am grateful to our neighbors who are joining us in this effort to ensure a sustainable future for all.”

“The Consulate General of Canada in Texas is proud to have played a role in conceiving and supporting the North American Friendship Garden, a great symbol of the commitment of the people of Canada, Mexico, the United States, and San Antonio to preserve and protect the flyways of the Monarch Butterfly and other pollinators and birds that link all of us throughout North America,” Dr. Rachel McCormick, Consul General of Canada, said.

“For the Government of Mexico, it is crucial to strengthen trilateral cooperation between Canada, the United States, and Mexico. Our three countries are more than just neighbors; we are partners, allies, and, above all, friends,” said Consul General Rubén Minutti Zanatta. “If we continue working together, boosting cooperation, both at the federal, and especially, at the local level, engaging cities, towns, counties and communities of all kinds, we will ensure the protection of our shared environments, our biodiversity, and wildlife.”

“Confluence Park was created to help educate visitors on our native habitats and the importance of protecting our natural resources for future generations,” said River Foundation Executive Director Frates Seeligson. “We are extremely grateful to our partners and donors for making this garden a reality as it’s a wonderful compliment to the park’s mission and purpose.”

Peter Pierson of the San Antonio River Authority oversaw installation of the garden. He had a simple tip for San Antonians if they want to welcome Monarchs into their yards in the spring for a day or two.

"If you can plant milkweeds, which we encourage everyone to plant some milkweed, you will see the spring migration eventually coming through and you'll have butterflies that will move in," Pierson said.

Monarchs feed on milkweed, which is toxic to its predators.

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