As published in The Fringed Gentian™.
My term as president of the Friends comes to a close at the end of this year, a bit later than planned due to the pandemic. When I started my 3 year commitment as president in Spring 2017, our major focus was on supporting completion of Phase 2 of the Garden boardwalk. Over the past 3-½ years the Friends also expanded its social media presence, registered for state sales tax exemption, and began a diversity-equity-inclusion (DEI) effort among many other activities.
This difficult year has yielded some positive things for the Garden thanks to the efforts of the MPRB. Safe visiting practices for the Garden were implemented, tested, and received positively. The MPRB Garden naturalists pioneered outreach in informative and entertaining ways that have enriched our experience of the Garden, and MPRB Garden leadership has been prudent and laser-focused on providing a peaceful refuge from the unique challenges of 2020.
In October, the Friends held its first virtual annual members’ meeting and elected its Board of Directors for the coming year. We were pleased to have the best member attendance in many years, and hope to expand member participation in coming years as well
The Friends’ 2020 annual board meeting was also held virtually. Among the officers elected is the new president, Jennifer Olson. I am delighted that her leadership skills and passionate interest in the natural world will guide the Friends into a bright future. Members will hear more directly from her after her term begins January 1.
At the annual board meeting, a revised mission statement was proposed by the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee and adopted by the board. The revised mission statement underscores the Friends’ commitment to strive to be anti-racist, including how we might amplify voices of marginalized communities.
One small measure is that the Friends’ descriptions of the Garden will include a land acknowledgment that the Garden is located on Dakota homelands, which made its first appearance in the Summer/Fall Gentian. The DEI effort is the work that was most important to me during my tenure, and I want to especially thank Lauren Husting for assuming leadership on this issue. I know that the Friends’ commitment to DEI is sincere and that it will continue into the future. This is our new mission statement:
The purpose of the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden is to protect, preserve, and promote the interests of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary as a sanctuary for native flora and fauna of Minnesota, and to educate and inspire all people in relating to the natural world. We strive to be an inclusive organization of people of all backgrounds, abilities, ages and ethnicities. To accomplish this, we work with a variety of individuals and organizations with common interests and vision.
We believe that:
The Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary should be preserved for its historical significance and its value as an environmental resource for the study and appreciation of the flora and fauna of the Garden.
🔹It is necessary to maintain a natural buffer zone around the Garden to protect its ecological integrity and to preserve its value as a retreat for quiet contemplation and observation of nature.
🔹It is our role to support and encourage the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board in maintaining and preserving the Garden.
🔹Promotion and utilization of the Garden should be compatible with protecting it as a sanctuary for flora and fauna and preserving the features of a unique natural environment.
🔹The Friends must be an organization that prioritizes, supports, and invests in diversity, inclusion and equity.
Thank you to a very engaged and committed board. Each of you in your own way, have made my work a joy. Thank you for the opportunity to lead the Friends and support the Garden.❖
During this time of unrest, I have been thankful for the Garden, and enjoyed visiting there. I am immensely grateful for the leadership of the Garden Curator, Susan Wilkins and to others on the Park Board, who designed a way to open the Garden safely. And also for the Garden staff who bravely staff the areas where they encounter members of the public, possibly exposing themselves to the virus. I have been delighted by the Garden’s robust social media presence that has expanded by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board on Facebook and Instagram during this time
This feeling contrasts with our community’s response to George Floyd’s killing on Memorial Day. This one act of terror has opened up awareness about the daily dangers and barriers faced by Black people in the United States. We are all learning more about the issues, and what it means to be anti-racist. As an organization the Friends are examining our relationships, our board function, and our membership and asking how can we better share those spaces with people of color? By the time this newsletter comes out, the board of the Friends will have met to continue those discussions. With more resources now available than in the past, and a more informed perspective, I believe we can take more concrete measures, including decisions on newsletter content. You may notice for example, on the Gentian’s back cover, we now acknowledge that the Garden is located on Dakota homelands, and this issue of the Gentian features an article by Friends’ board member Lauren Husting on Black Birders Week
Part of the culture shift that needs to happen for everyone to thrive, is for people of privilege to make space for Black voices to speak on topics that regularly appear in the Friends’ publications. So, in addition to welcoming writers of color to contact the editor with story ideas, I’m also recommending a great piece by Duluth resident Dudley Edmonson, “This Land is Your Land? Insights from an African American Conservationist” on Nature.org. Also highly recommended is an outstandingly comprehensive July 26, 2019 article by Kim Marie Walker on LitHub.com called “Finding My Climate-Conscious Tribe: Black Nature Lovers and Writers.” Her list of works by Black writers spans every genre, and includes “Black Nature,” edited by Camille T. Dungy (which was reviewed in the spring 2019 Gentian). Reading about a beloved topic from a different perspective can make that subject come alive again, and enrich our experience, but these writings also have universal appeal and I found that these works truly resonated for me, a person of European descent.
Finally, we are trying something new with this issue, and welcome Lauren Husting as co-editor with Colin Bartol. Lauren has been the content creator for the email communications many Friends supporters receive. Her creativity and fresh perspective pair well with Colin’s leadership and skillful content development. Thank you both for this excellent issue!
Our thanks to the dedicated employees of the MPRB for their thoughtful responses to our public health emergency. The members of the park board are also tirelessly working to respond to this unprecedented situation. While our heroic health care workers,and health care facilities staff are working to care for those who are ill or injured during this upheaval, others take care of the health and well being of the rest of us. Institutions like the MPRB, the Minnesota DNR, the Three Rivers Parks District, the US Forest Service, US Department of the Interior, countless city and county and other local parks and recreation departments, and public gardens have absorbed the excess energy of home-bound school kids, and provided physical and mental space for those in need of a respite from too much togetherness at home.
These natural resources are necessary for our health, now more than ever. Opportunities to enjoy nature and take exercise outdoors can figure in all of our strategies to maintain health and optimism in the coming months. Minneapolis parks will be a great place to take a moment to remember that life is beautiful, impermanent and to be cherished so long as we can. Please, when you encounter parks workers in the coming weeks, go out of your way to thank them, from a safe distance. They are also helping to save us.
This newsletter carries a beautiful reflection from Garden Curator Susan Wilkins that helps soften the difficult separation from the Garden that we all feel. We also enjoy a lovely piece on the 50th anniversary of dedication of the Martha Crone Shelter. Most of the rest of this Gentian concerns climate change. It is a weighty topic for our little newsletter, but the subject directly impacts the Garden, and so is important for us to consider.
In 1982 one of my professors lectured about how excess carbon in the atmosphere had been altering climate. Background readings for the class described how climate change had been observed for many decades before that. It has been remarkable in recent years for me to hear people deny the reality of climate change as though it is a recent fabrication created for political reasons or for ratings by media.
In early February I went to a Mexican village called Zitácuaro. In the mountains nearby are sites where hundreds of thousands of monarch butterflies from Minnesota and further north spend winters, before setting out again northward.
It will take their descendants four generations to reach Minnesota. Recent instances of excessive cold in those mountains, loss of habitat and forage have resulted in mass die-offs of the butterflies. Each species exists because it fills an important eat-and-be-eaten niche. Species decline amounts to environmental Jenga – we just don’t know which piece when removed will result in a collapse.
I don’t have answers. I am not a climate scientist, but I don’t need to be. I am not a doctor but I do rely on their expertise in obtaining care for myself and my loved ones. I am not an accountant but I do rely on their expertise in keeping the books for my business and preparing my taxes. I am listening to the climate scientists and listening to the answers. In the meantime, I want to believe that keeping my 2010 Prius hybrid instead of replacing it, walking more, flying less, buying less, reusing more, wasting less are meaningful ways I can address climate change on a micro scale, and hope that more people are embracing the changes that could collectively make a difference. I think it helps also to press our leadership to be brave, and to pay attention to the numerous voices voicing concern about climate change reversal and response.
Wishing you peace,