ALPHARETTA, Ga. — North Metro Miracle League has begun its “Growing Together” initiative with the official opening of its first butterfly and pollinator gardens.
The nonprofit provides programs for children and adults with disabilities to help them build healthier, social and active lifestyles with projects like the new gardens.
Dozens of members, along with Alpharetta Mayor Jim Gilvin and YMCA representatives, met in front of the Ed Isakson/Alpharetta Family YMCA July 11 to celebrate the accomplishment. Participants helped plant the first flowers in two 12-foot by 4-foot wheelchair-accessible planting beds.
The raised gardens will help people with mobility issues or who have difficulty bending down to have a way to connect with nature, said North Metro Miracle League Executive Director John McLaughlin.
“In order to have a fuller and richer life, these kids, these young adults, need to connect with the world around them,” McLaughlin said. “Connecting with nature can bring peace and healing.”
Michael Haynes, former Atlanta Falcons wide receiver, was instrumental to this project and has been an incredible supporter of North Metro Miracle League, McLaughlin added.
The plants in the garden are varieties of milkweed that attract pollinators such as bees and monarch butterflies. It’s all a part of the North Metro Miracle League’s larger “Growing Together” initiative.
“The populations of bees and monarch butterflies are down 90 percent in the last 20 years,” McLaughlin said. “They are essential to our future, but we are destroying theirs.”
The group is partnering with the Chattahoochee Nature Center, area Master Gardener groups, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the National Youth Conservation Association and the National Monarch Society to help address the issue and develop ways to foster the species.
Modern farming techniques, pesticides and urban sprawl have all contributed to the declining bee and monarch butterfly populations, McLaughlin said.
“We want people to reestablish feeding stations for these beautiful creatures,” McLaughlin said.
To help reach this goal and spread the word, North Metro Miracle League members have built bird feeders and bird houses to sell, along with plants, at the Alpharetta Farmers Market.
North Metro Miracle League and the Ed Isakson/Alpharetta Family YMCA will provide joint maintenance for the planting beds at the Alpharetta YMCA.
McLaughlin said he plans to build more planting beds in the area, including at the Alpharetta Arts Center, Dorothy C. Benson Senior Multipurpose Complex and local parks.
For more information about North Metro Miracle League and its programs and initiatives, visit nmml.net.