KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
May 11, 2019
By Natalie Cook Clark
Katy's Willow Fork Park, next to Cinco Ranch High School, is now home to a Butterfly Garden. This feature enhances the 32-acre park that was designed as a recreational space and nature environment for the community to enjoy.
Butterflies Already in the Garden
"As we were planting the plants, butterflies were already coming," says Neil Stillman, President of Friends of Willow Fork Park, an extension of Willow Fork Drainage District and an association of friends and neighbors dedicated to providing free, nature-based programs for the Katy community. Stillman, who has a huge passion for nature and the outdoors, founded Friends of Willow Fork Park in 2017.
30 Different Types of Plants
The Butterfly Garden extends 55 feet by 55 feet with 30 different types of plants. "Most plants are native to Texas," says Stillman.
"I wasn't familiar with a public butterfly garden," explains Stillman. "I then approached the Willow Fork Drainage District board about the idea."
Created by Friends of Willow Fork Park
"Everyone thought it was a wonderful idea," says Wendy Duncan, WFDD Director. "The Friends of Willow Fork Park has their own budget and this is something the entire community can enjoy."
Designed by a Master Naturalist
Stillman worked with a master naturalist to pick out the plants and designing the garden. They planted them on Monday, May 6. In the coming weeks interpretive signs will go up around the park to educate the public on the lifecycle of the butterfly and the plants.
"We want to give people a place to bring their children to see the butterflies and learn how they can create their own at-home butterfly garden," says Stillman.
The plants in the garden include Milkweed, Red Salvia, Passion Wine, Native Prairie Grass, and more. There is a mix of host plants for the caterpillars and nectar plants for the butterflies.
"This is a great opportunity to educate our community," says Duncan. "We live in a tropical area so these plants grow yearround, and if properly taken care of, we can keep the Monarch Butterflies here all year."
From Oil Man to a Park Ranger
Neil Stillman worked for Shell Oil Exploration and Production for 35 years before retiring to become a seasonal park ranger. Last summer he retired again but his founding and involvement with Friends of Willow Fork Park demonstrates his continued dedication to nature and the Katy community.
A Great Way to Start Summer
The new Butterfly Garden provides a great way to start summer break. Families can take a self-guided tour and have a fun day exploring at the park.
"Families should educate children on how to take a 'looking tour.' We don't want to harm these beautiful creatures," says Duncan.
Look for an announcement soon regarding a ribbon cutting ceremony.
Friends of Willow Fork Park has events scheduled for the rest of this calendar year. Visit their official Facebook page for more information and details.