Dirt Therapy: By Marianne Taylor
Dirt Therapy: By Marianne Taylor

 By Marianne Taylor

August marks the 10th anniversary of the Los Rios Park and the Los Rios Garden Angels, a volunteer group started by Goin’ Native Therapeutic Gardens that cares and maintains the native gardens and butterfly habitats.

To celebrate both anniversaries, Goin’ Native is hosting its inaugural Festival of the Butterflies on Saturday, Aug. 3, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. throughout the Los Rios Historic District, Los Rios Park and Goin’ Native’s headquarters.

This free event will bring awareness to the butterfly populations that are on decline worldwide because of a loss of habitats, bacteria viruses and from the use of pesticides and insecticides.

The 6.5-acre park is home to several types of Orange County butterflies, including the Anise Swallowtail and the endangered Monarch butterfly.

Enjoy garden walking tours, plant sales, butterfly education, kids’ crafts, live music, food, museum, ZOOMARS Petting Zoo and fun from the Los Rios participating merchants. Upon arrival, pick up a street map for the Festival of the Butterflies at the train station kiosk or from a Garden Angel at the Los Rios Park. Follow the monarch butterfly on the map to the various street merchants on Los Rios Street and get a stamp for fluttering by. Fill up your passport with stamps from each participating merchant and get a free opportunity ticket at Goin’ Native.

Trevor’s at the Tracks, the premier sponsor, has created a butterfly café at the Goin’ Native gardens offering bites and beverages. Mike Evans of Tree of Life Nursery will be speaking on butterfly habitats and have plants for sale to encourage butterflies in the garden.

There will also be a butterfly bubble market with wings and things to entertain the wee ones, as well as park garden tours, talks and a live butterfly release of 300 Monarch butterflies at 1 p.m. at the Los Rios Park.

During the free garden talks and tours, you’ll learn about the various butterflies that call Los Rios Park home, including Monarchs, Mourning Cloaks, Cloudless Sulphur, Yellow Sulphur, Anise Swallowtail, White Checkered Skippers and the Gulf Fritillary.

In 2013, the park received recognition as a certified North America Butterfly Association (NABA) approved garden. To become a NABA-certified butterfly garden, the park needed to provide a minimum of 12 host and nectar plants from the required plant list to support regional native butterfly habitats.

To help stop the extinction of these butterflies, learn how to add host and nectar plants in your garden pallet. To gain a NABA certificate for your garden, visit naba.org.

As a nonprofit 501c3, Goin’ Native is committed to providing horticultural education, emotional and physical rehabilitation and practical life skills to people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds while promoting environmental sustainability and saving community resources.

Not only does Goin’ Native care for the butterfly habitats at the park each week, Goin’ Native cares for adults with developmental disabilities who help maintain the gardens. We support and nurture these adults who come from various public and private day programs in Orange County, helping them find meaningful experiences and vocational opportunities.

You can contribute to the growth of our weekly program by attending the tropical cocktail fundraising party at ZOOMARS following the festival. The fundraiser will benefit the butterfly sanctuary at the park and the adult workability group.

Participate in the silent auction and sway to the sounds of Caribbean steel drum music while enjoying sweet nectar drinks and tropical tastes from the San Juan Capistrano Chamber of Commerce’s recently named Business of the Year, Sweet Home Capistrano Bakery Café.

Tickets are $100 per person, $50 for children under 16 and $250 for families of four. Order online at goinnative.net.

Marianne Taylor, of San Juan Capistrano, is the founder and executive director of Goin’ Native Therapeutic Gardens, 501c3, teaching gardening and life skills as a way of empowering, engaging and connecting people. Goin’ Native focuses on educating local families, special-needs adults, seniors, at-risk youth and members of the military.

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