Parkville butterfly garden hopes to draw in walking and winged visitors

Parkville Nature Sanctuary honors former director with a memorial butterfly garden

The city of Parkville and the Friends of the Parkville Nature Sanctuary teamed up to honor the late Bob Fluchel, former director of the sanctuary, through a new memorial butterfly garden.
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The city of Parkville and the Friends of the Parkville Nature Sanctuary teamed up to honor the late Bob Fluchel, former director of the sanctuary, through a new memorial butterfly garden.

The faint sound of the White Alloe Creek babbling a half a mile down Old Kate’s Trail greets visitors to the Parkville Nature Sanctuary.

A new attraction at the sanctuary, the Bob Fluchel Memorial Butterfly Garden, is sure to draw visitors. But the coordinators behind the project are hoping even more to draw butterflies and bees.

With the help of the Friends of Parkville Nature Sanctuary, the city of Parkville opened the butterfly garden on June 12 in honor of the late Bob Fluchel, a beloved director of the sanctuary who died in 2015 before his idea to create the colorful wonderland could come to fruition. The new attraction features 300 plants with more than 20 species..

Friends of Parkville Nature Sanctuary, a nonprofit group created in 2015, helps the city of Parkville raise funds for future programming, maintenance and development of nature sanctuaries.

“It’s very colorful and very bright, and we hope for it to be a teaching garden,” said Jeanne Pyland, president of the friends group.

The sanctuary is a wildlife preserve and educational site that stretches more than 115 acres. It has 3 miles of trails, 23 benches, bridges, walkways, waterfalls — and now, a butterfly garden.

“We will have the host plants (where insects can lay eggs), as well as the nectar plants identified so that people can come down, look at what’s there and see what’s happening, and hopefully go back and duplicate that in their own homes. That’s certainly a push across Missouri in general.”

Fluchel was a powerful motivator for the creation of the nonprofit friends group, so the group wanted to honor him with their first major project.

The city’s Board of Aldermen named the garden in memory of Fluchel, who had a passion for nature conservation and education. He served as director for the sanctuary for three years; before that, he worked for the Missouri Department of Conservation for more than 20 years. He also helped several schools establish butterfly gardens as an education consultant.

“There’s conservation issues involving butterflies, and that’s part of what Bob’s work was all about and this is just another piece,” said Joe Ryan, the sanctuary’s current director. “Bob was an incredibly gentle, kind man and it kind of reflects well with this peaceful garden. I want to add some benches nearby as time goes on so people can reflect and enjoy it.”

The sanctuary started in 1989 when the developers of Riss Lake donated 46 acres and $25,000 for the city of Parkville to begin a nature sanctuary.

In 1998, a cooperative agreement with the Missouri Department of Conservation, Park University and the city of Parkville added 69 acres to the sanctuary for the White Alloe Creek Conservation Area.

“Probably the biggest attraction for folks coming to the sanctuary is to hike the trails,” Ryan said. “Day after day, I’ve been seeing more repeated customers, so you kind of know that it does mean a lot to the people in Parkville to be able to come here and get away.

“There’s a good chance to see wildlife here. There’s a lot of deer, wild turkey, and you don’t see them as often, but there’s coyote and fox.”

In order to preserve its tranquil setting, the nature sanctuary does not allow dogs or bikes.

“I’ve always considered a sanctuary as a quiet, peaceful place where you can sit and reflect and think or walk, or hike or whatever without disturbing the natural systems around you,” Pyland said.

Volunteers have always been heavily involved in preserving the Parkville Nature Sanctuary, Ryan said. The original director, Jim Reed, started as a volunteer and persuaded others to join him. Some are still volunteering after 15 or 20 years.

Fluchel was a volunteer himself before he became director, and also worked alongside Reed when he was with the Missouri Department of Conservation helping the city lay out the original trails for the sanctuary.

When he was employed by the city as director, Fluchel saw how organizing funds for sanctuary projects was not as efficient as he would have wished. That’s why in 2015, Reed’s volunteer-based work inspired Fluchel to form a separate group designed to help fund and support those projects beyond the city’s budget.

While some members of the nonprofit Friends of Parkville Nature Sanctuary were also volunteers for the sanctuary, their tasks differed from funding the projects for the Friends to actually volunteering to do groundwork within the sanctuary.

Shortly after the group formed and earned its nonprofit status, Fluchel passed away. The Friends group decided on their first project: the butterfly garden. It would be supported by donations from Fluchel’s memorial fund.

“The inspiration for a butterfly garden memorial for Bob was his love for butterflies, native plants, ecosystem conservation and for educating the public,” Pyland said. “A butterfly garden seemed a beautiful way to continue his love of butterflies and natural systems, build community awareness of monarch and pollinator conservation needs and provide a welcoming educational entrance to the sanctuary.”

The nonprofit group has other future projects in mind to carry out Fluchel’s original mission to fund director-led ideas. Some of these include interpretive signs for individual plants, natural play areas along the trails for children and an interpretive center for educational programs.

With improvements like a walkway and signage, the Friends hope to develop the butterfly garden over time, and as they carry out the goals he was never able to finish, they’re remembering Fluchel and his contributions to the Parkville Nature Sanctuary.

“It’s a place I love to take my grandchildren and … you know, when we’re there, we remember their grandpa,” Fluchel’s wife, Barbara Fluchel, said. “I hope a lot of people will take their children there.”

If you go

What: The Bob Fluchel Memorial Butterfly Garden at The Parkville Nature Sanctuary

Where: The main entrance of the Parkville Nature Sanctuary is located below the Platte County Health Dept between 12th and Missouri 9.

Admission: Free

Information: check out its website: parkvillemo.gov/community/nature-sanctuary/

For information on contributing or volunteering: Checks may be made out to the Parkville Nature Sanctuary and can be dropped off or mailed to Parkville City Hall. City Hall is located at 8880 Clark Ave., Parkville, MO, 64152. All donations are tax deductible. To reach the director, Joe Ryan, call 816-741-7676, or email jryan@parkvillemo.gov