The Monarch Park, 8351 Morris Rd. in Albany, OH, is a new space being developed near Athens in order to encourage locals to get outdoors by facilitating a space for both the natural life cycle of monarch butterflies and discussing social justice issues.
For Athens community member Cory Frederick, the Monarch Park is a lifelong dream that is finally coming to fruition. Since the late 1980s, Frederick grew up on the land where the park is currently being built, and he plans to create the park in his daughter’s honor.
“So, I’m a trans man and I had a daughter who was born prematurely, she passed away at 23 weeks,” Frederick said. “And so this land is kind of dedicated in her memory – sort of a sense of renewal – and this is a place that we can all come to and be a part of nature.”
Most of the funding for the project comes right out of Frederick’s pocket, but he has taken donations in the past and appreciates the help of community members to do things like clear trails or build gazebos. The Park is an endeavor that Frederick has always been excited to take on, and he’s eager to create an environment that will promote both being in nature and having discussions about social justice issues.
“You know TED Talks, right?” Frederick said, “So I’ve always wanted to have a space like that, that can facilitate that kind of environment. Maybe it’s music, maybe it’s spoken word, but (I’m looking forward to holding) community events that draw people together and give people food for thought.”
As an executive director of Goldfall Consulting Services in Plain City, OH, Frederick works as an equity, diversity and inclusion consultant, discussing issues with regards to race, sexual orientation, gender identity and other similar topics. In the future, he hopes to host weekend workshops for professionals working in helping professions such as social work, education, counseling and therapy. Frederick even plans to offer license recertification for participants and workshops specifically for trans youth and parents of trans youth. These workshops are estimated to begin in June when the Park officially opens.
“And (yet another) part of this project is short term rental,” Frederick said, explaining that he’s been looking at placements on sites like Airbnb, Vrbo and HomeAway. “We’ve been cooped up, quarantining for this last year, so I know at least where I live, people are looking for really unique experiences and I know that our place can provide that for them.”
The first stage in his plan to develop short term rental at the Park is focusing on “glamping,” or glamorous camping, a new trend for people of all levels of camping experience, where tents or gazebos to stay in are typically already set up and prepared upon the campers’ arrival in order to ease the more stressful sides of camping outdoors. Of course, the Park offers sites for people to traditionally camp, but there will also be a “luxury glamping gazebo” and a 10-foot by 10-foot creative cabin style tent with 30-foot ceilings and a full-size bed inside.
Another key part of the Monarch Park is focusing on accessibility. Frederick explained that had his daughter survived, she likely would have had developmental disabilities. As he was planning the project, it hit him that he needed to ensure that the park is highly accessible.
“I want this to be a place where other people can come and feel included, and feel like they belong,” Frederick said. “That’s my overarching goal for the Park, and I hope that everybody who comes to visit leaves with a sense of belonging, that they can have a place to come back to and hopefully make more memories.”
Frederick is trying his best to be thoughtful and intentional about his land use and land management as he puts together the park, and so sustainability is at the forefront of its development as well as he works to eradicate invasive species such as ornamental olive and multiflora rose.
The land is also dedicated as a monarch butterfly way-station, or a place for monarch butterflies to stop by in the late summer and early fall on their journey to winter in Mexico. As a way-station, the park creates a space for traveling butterflies to mate and lay eggs. The park is abundant with milkweed and other favorite plants of monarchs in order to feed and shelter future baby caterpillars until they form their cocoons and join the others on their trip south.
“A lot of our native wildflowers are in danger of human encroachment and pesticides, encroachment in terms of land development, land use and things like that,” Frederick said. “So we’re just making a concerted effort to intentionally plant some of these, like milkweed for instance…so our job is to restore some of those native wildflowers the monarch depends upon and, in doing so, that creates other opportunities for other species, as well. It just really increases the bounty and diversity in terms of the foliage and the animals that need them.”
Doug Althauser, executive director of the Family & Youth Law Center at Capital University in New York and a good friend of Frederick is excited to see where the project goes and has been eager to support the park since the early stages of its planning.
“I think (it’s important to) have an opportunity for people to camp, for young people to go on a field trip, for people to understand the need to preserve an environment for butterflies or for any kind of nature,” Althauser said. “You know, (Frederick’s) got a dream, more than anything else, and this isn’t something the state is doing, this isn’t something that a foundation is doing, this is something that an individual is doing for the benefit of the community and I really like the idea of supporting that.”
The Monarch Park plans to open its doors to the public on Saturdays and Sundays for community members to stop by and check it out, but workshops won’t begin and most of the construction won’t be complete until June at the earliest.
Frederick encourages local artisans and community members to reach out to him if they’re interested in utilizing the black walnut trees on the property, putting an event or workshop together with other community members and creators, or simply volunteering with the development of the Park. Anyone interested can contact Frederick by messaging him via Facebook.
“Sometimes you plant a seed and you don’t exactly know what it’s going to turn into,” Frederick said. “And I planted this seed when I was a little kid and it sounds really cliche, but I’ve kept my dream alive and it’s finally starting to blossom; so I’m excited.”