Feb 26, 2023 - News

Protecting pollinators: Butterfly Pavilion puts insects at the heart of development

A butterfly rests on a flower at the Butterfly Pavilion. Photo: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Westminster's Butterfly Pavilion has the birds and bees top of mind.

  • They are working to build tiny neighborhoods for butterflies and insects within human-sized development projects.

What's happening: Pollinator districts, as they're called, are developments "programmed for pollinator protection and awareness, pre-shovel in the ground," Patrick Tennyson, president and CEO of the Butterfly Pavilion — the world's only stand-alone, Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited invertebrate zoo — tells Axios Denver.

  • In other words, the Pavilion is integrating habitat enhancements, like flower-rich and drought-resistant landscapes, into manmade green spaces, like roof gardens, road medians, sidewalk edgings, public parks and residential neighborhoods.
  • They are actively supporting three sustainable real estate projects in Colorado, including the I-76 Pollinator Highway, which kicked off in 2018, as well as projects in Broomfield's Baseline neighborhood and in Manitou Springs.

Why it matters: Experts say one out of every three bites of food we take is thanks to pollinators, whose populations are declining due to habitat loss from new construction.

Driving the news: This month, Westside Investment Partners announced plans to team up with the Butterfly Pavilion to apply aspects of the pollinator district model within the former Park Hill Golf Course. Goals include enriching the natural habitat with native flowering plants and shrubs.

Meanwhile, the Pavilion is pursuing a $55 million plan to build an 81,000-square-foot research, education and conservation facility in Broomfield.

  • From design to construction to maintenance, Tennyson says the new location will be the world's first complete development built entirely around pollinators. Its features will include parks with native habitat gardens, retail space with planter boxes and a roof with plants on it.
  • The Pavilion expects to move from its Westminster location to the new facility in 2025.
  • They are also rolling out the pollinator district model internationally. Late last year, the Butterfly Pavilion announced a partnership with a high-end development in Turks and Caicos.
A rendering of the new Butterfly Pavilion development in Broomfield. The move to the new facility is slated for 2025. Photo: Courtesy of Butterfly Pavilion

What we're watching: How well the model works. Preliminary data found pollinator districts are beneficial for the butterfly and insect populations.

  • Species and families of pollinators in Baseline — a new residential development in Broomfield, where the pollinator district model is being applied — jumped 63% (from 11 to 18) in September 2022 compared to June 2019.

1 fun thing: Practice yoga with butterflies at the Butterfly Pavilion


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