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Date of Issue: October 08, 2008

Agreement seeds new season for garden

Nancy Ambrose of the North American Butterfly Association's Manasota Chapter and Mayor Rich Bohnenberger sign an agreement for the future maintenance and improvement of the Anna Maria Island Butterfly Park. The garden is located next to city hall.

A volunteer group and the city of Holmes Beach have entered a new agreement for improvements and maintenance at the Anna Maria Island Butterfly Park.

The park was designated in 1999 to be at the south end of Holmes Beach City Hall and to the north of the Island Branch Library.

The North American Butterfly Association’s Manasota Chapter began work in the garden in January 2000 and the garden officially opened later that year when the first order of personalized bricks arrived.

A variety of plants to attract butterflies matured and, over the years, memorial bricks, benches, a sculpture, a water fountain and an irrigation system were added through donations.

Last year, some of the bricks were damaged by a contractor the city hired to trim ficus trees that the butterfly group had long wanted removed.

The damage prompted the butterfly group to put a hold on improvements and remove the damaged bricks.

Eventually the mayor ordered the removal of the ficus trees, but months passed with the city and butterfly group negotiating an agreement for future improvements and maintenance.

Last week, butterflies abounded in the garden but the park remained closed to the public and appeared overgrown.

The city’s parks and beautification committee briefly discussed the state of the garden during its first meeting of the fall Oct. 1, following a summer recess.

“As the committee, we’re going to have to address it,” said committee member Maureen Hirthler.

But the next day, unaware of the committee’s concerns, the North American Butterfly Association Manasota Chapter acted, with member Nancy Ambrose of Holmes Beach sending Mayor Rich Bohnenberger a proposed agreement.

Later that day, Ambrose and the mayor signed the agreement, with the mayor saying that he wishes for a garden “to be something we can all be proud of.”

Bohnenberger said he realized last year that the city had no record of a contract with the butterfly group and thought there should be a written agreement.

 “My goal was to simply get some kind of documentation as to what the responsibilities are for both parties,” he said. “I won’t be here forever. Staff won’t be here forever. And somewhere down the road, someone might have a question.”

The agreement lists four obligations for the butterfly group:

  • Assume all landscaping and maintenance responsibility with the exception of a Canary Island date palm near the parking lot.
  • Maintain any lighting or irrigation features placed on the property by or on behalf of the group.
  • Perform landscaping and maintenance in compliance with city, county and state safety standards.
  • Prior to any excavation, confirm the location of public utilities.

The agreement requires the city to:

  • Allow the Manasota Chapter access to the property.
  • Maintain current city lighting in the area.

“We’ll be monitoring, same as we do with all the adopt-a spots,” Bohnenberger said. “And should there be some assistance required, I am sure we’ll be there.”

The agreement also states that it “shall remain in effect until terminated by either party” and that either party may terminate the contract “for any reason upon 60 days notice.”

If the agreement is terminated, the Manasota Chapter would remove any material purchased or donated by the group and “restore the area to the condition it was in prior to the agreement.”

Ambrose said that for now the work will involve tilling and putting down wood chips and the chapter could use volunteers.

She said the first area designated for clean up will be the front of the garden near a veterans memorial, which will be the site of a Veterans Day program in November.

Eventually the group will return the memorial bricks and bring in new plants, and longer-range plans involve the construction of a gazebo.