The Day - Sound & Country - - FRONT PAGE - LIZ MU­GAVERO


The but­ter­fly pavil­ion slated for this Mother’s Day week­end at the for­mer River Run Nurs­eries in Nor­wich is only a promis­ing preview of what will be a per­ma­nent at­trac­tion once the first phase of the Chelsea Gar­dens project is com­pleted.

Vis­i­tors to the 3rd An­nual Chelsea Gar­dens Foun­da­tion But­ter­fly Pavil­ion will have a chance to in­ter­act with Monar­chs and Painted Ladies dur­ing the event, which boasts 1,000 but­ter­flies shipped in from Florida.

“Every­one loves it, es­pe­cially kids,” said Bob Reed, past pres­i­dent and board mem­ber of the Chelsea Gar­den Foun­da­tion. “It’s a good ed­u­ca­tional event.”

The Mother’s Day event be­gins Thurs­day, May 6, and run through Sun­day, May 9. Doors open at 10 a.m. each day, and tick­ets will be sold un­til 4:30 p.m., with doors clos­ing at 5 p.m.

Nurs­ery school and preschool groups will be sched­uled on Thurs­day and Fri­day, and the pub­lic is wel­come all four days.

A guest speaker is also on the sched­ule for this year’s event. Nancy DuBrule-Cle­mente, owner of Na­tureWorks, a re­tail gar­den cen­ter in North­ford, will be the key­note guest.

The But­ter­fly Pavil­ion is cur­rently the Foun­da­tion’s main fundraiser, bring­ing more than $10,000 an­nu­ally for the 90-acre, world-class botan­i­cal gar­dens project in Mo­he­gan Park, still in the de­sign phase. With the mas­ter plan com­plete, the site plan for phase one is now un­der­way, with an an­tic­i­pated ground-break­ing still more than a year away, ac­cord­ing to Hugh Sch­nip, pres­i­dent of the Foun­da­tion.

“It’s a big un­der­tak­ing,” Sch­nip said. “The idea for this came about 18 years ago, and it’s been on­go­ing fundrais­ing, plan­ning and site re­search ever since.”

Reed agreed. “A project on this scale takes a gen­er­a­tion to build,” he said.

And with such a long plan­ning process come changes. Sch­nip said since its in­cep­tion, the goals for the project have evolved.

“The idea for a self-sus­tain­ing gar­den space that will be a ma­jor tourist at­trac­tion is the same, but we’ve re­fined it and added di­men­sions like the But­ter­fly Pavil­ion and a more in­volved ed­u­ca­tional com­po­nent,” he said. “Our fo­cus has al­ways cen­tered around tourism, eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, recre­ation, con­ser­va­tion and ed­u­ca­tion.”

The Pavil­ion, in­cluded in phase one plans, will be a year-round rev­enue source for the project. In ad­di­tion, the first phase will in­clude green­houses, a cafe and main­te­nance build­ings. As part of the ed­u­ca­tional com­po­nent, a col­lab­o­ra­tion is planned with the English Gar­den­ing School for a class­room and hands-on teach­ing area to demon­strate gar­den de­sign and main­te­nance.

Plans are to con­vert the ini­tial mod­u­lar build­ings into more per­ma­nent fa­cil­i­ties dur­ing the later stages of the project.

The ad­van­tages of a per­ma­nent hous­ing area for the but­ter­flies would be the op­tion to bring in trop­i­cal species from around the world, Sch­nip said. The but­ter­flies brought in now for the yearly event are all North Amer­i­can species and are re­leased into the wild at the end of the week­end.

When fully op­er­a­tional, the Pavil­ion is ex­pected to bring in be­tween 170,000 to 200,000 vis­i­tors an­nu­ally.

Themed gar­dens and con­ser­va­to­ries are also planned for the 90 acres, along with an ex­ten­sive amount of open space and nat­u­ral wet­land ar­eas that will en­cour­age more ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Sch­nip, an ac­cred­ited Con­necti­cut nurs­ery­man, said his past ex­pe­ri­ence with large-scale land­scapes is es­pe­cially help­ful in this stage of the project. “It’s a good time for me to be in­volved as we’re get­ting ready to move into a shovel-ready po­si­tion,” he said.

“No one wants to start turn­ing dirt more than we do,” Reed said. “It’s go­ing to be a won­der­ful place.”

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