Before impressive credentials like “Monarch Watch Conservation Specialist” and “Master Gardener” became linked to her name …
Before her personal garden in 2005 became the first Monarch Waystation in DuPage County to be registered with Monarch Watch …
Before the Chicago Tribune dubbed her “Queen of the Monarchs” …
Pat Miller grabbed one of her mom’s oldest spoons and spent a childhood digging and sifting, watching and listening, in her own backyard.
“I grew up in an age where in the morning your parents kicked you out of the house and said, ‘See ya at dinner!’” says Miller, whose name has long been synonymous with monarch preservation, education, and advocacy champions within the community.
“You did not have to go to the forest preserve, or the zoo, or the arboretum to find nature. It was in your own backyard – and it still is.”
The Fox Valley Park District this fall received the Pat Miller Community Engagement Award, presented by the DuPage Monarch Project, “for its extensive and ongoing contributions to pollinator awareness.”
With the management of 2,400 acres of open space – over 550 of which are classified and managed as natural areas – the District tends to a big backyard.
Miller spent years presenting the monarch’s amazing life cycle story in classrooms throughout DuPage and Cook counties. “I felt I was successful if one of those 30 kids spent more time outside,” Miller says. “That was my goal.”
In 2016, the FVPD became a signatory of the DuPage Monarch Project, signing a resolution to preserve and promote pollinator habitat.
Since 2017, the FVPD has secured $56,000 in grant funding for the establishment of new pollinator habitat, specifically:
- $10,000 grant through the ComEd Green Region for the conversion of 10.3 acres of turf into pollinator habitat at Stuart Sports Complex (2019)
- Grant funding (not to exceed $10,000) from the Illinois Clean Energy Foundation for an additional 2.6 acres of turf conversion at Stuart (2020)
- $11,000 grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Foundation for the establishment and maintenance of the Lippold Park pollinator habitat
- $10,000 grant through ComEd Green Region for the conversion of turf grass and floodplain to native plantings at Jericho Lake (2022)
Additionally, the FVPD actively promotes pollinator engagement through special events, youth education, site-specific signage, social media messaging, and more. Lippold Park and adjacent Red Oak Nature Center serve as the epicenter of the District’s outdoor-education initiatives.
Like Miller, staff encourages preschoolers, campers and visitors to get outside and explore.
“Most of our students know that bees and butterflies are pollinators, but so many are surprised to learn that hummingbirds, moths, beetles and even bats pollinate as well,” says Renee Oakley, facility manager at Red Oak. “We want the community to get out and look for these pollinators and observe them at work, because the roles they play are fascinating.”
At Lippold Park, alone, more than 1,200 students and campers have interacted with the park’s educational pollinator habitat over the last two seasons.
“The future of the insects that pollinate many of our food crop rests in the hands of the next generation of conservationists, the young people who are now connecting with nature,” says Lonnie Morris, coordinator of the DuPage Monarch Project. “Fox Valley Park District makes those connections possible.”
For more information about nature-based programming at the Fox Valley Park District, visit https://www.redoaknaturecenter.info/.