Milkweed, aster, goldenrod, black-eyed-Susans and other plants fill a new butterfly wayside station, or butterfly garden, on the grounds of Lauralton Hall, attracting butterflies and representing the culmination of a local student’s Girl Scout Gold Award project.

Meghan Warren, who recently graduated from Lauralton Hall and will head to Ithaca College in New York this fall to study physical therapy, said her Gold Award project demonstrates her long- time concern for the environment.

The Gold Award is the highest award in Girl Scouts. It requires Girl Scouts in grades nine through 12 to spend at least 80 hours researching issues, assessing community needs and resources, building a team, and making a sustainable impact in the community.

“A Gold Award recipient’s accomplishments reflect leadership and citizenship skills that set her apart as a community leader,” Scout officials said. “Nationally, only 6% of older Girl Scouts earn the Gold Award.”

A member of Girl Scout Troop 38304 in Milford, Meghan has been a Girl Scout for 13 years, starting as a Daisy Scout at St. Gabriel School.

Earning the Gold Award seemed an appropriate capstone to her years in Scouting.

“I decided to find a way to help the monarch butterfly population, which has been decreasing due to lack of habitat and increased pesticide usage,” Meghan said. “At Lauralton Hall, I worked with a teacher and a group of girls from our environmental club to build a butterfly wayside station. I also created an educational brochure to teach people how to build their own butterfly wayside station.”

Monarch wayside stations are places that provide resources necessary for monarchs to produce successive generations and sustain their migration, according to monarchwatch.org. “Without milkweeds throughout their spring and summer breeding areas in North America, monarchs would not be able to produce the successive generations that culminate in the migration each fall,” the website states. “Similarly, without nectar from flowers these fall migratory monarch butterflies would be unable to make their long journey to overwintering grounds in Mexico. The need for host plants for larvae and energy sources for adults applies to all monarch and butterfly populations around the world.”

Working with the environmental club at Lauralton, Meghan began organizing meetings in March, in preparation for planting the garden in May.

Working with her were Environmental Club Advisor Donna DiMassa, and members Angelina DeBenedet, Shauna Fortier, Grace Sweeney, Hannah Haynes, Colleen Bradley and Katie Franke. Angelina drew a map of the garden layout, showing its butterfly shape and indicating the plants within.

Groundskeeper Rick Capecelatro also contributed to the creation of the garden.

DiMassa and another teacher found and applied for a grant from the National Wildlife Federation, which helped in the purchase of plants from several nurseries.

“I went to Filanowski’s and they generously donated the plants I was getting there,” Meghan said of the Milford-based Filanowski Farms.

Research and graphic skills helped her produce the tri-fold brochure called “How to Create Your Own Butterfly Wayside Station.”

“With increased use of pesticides and loss of farm lands, butterflies, specifically the Monarch, are disappearing,” her brochure states. “Every year monarch butterflies migrate from Mexico, going as far as Canada. If they have no place to stop and rest, they will die.”

The brochure lists plants best used in a butterfly garden, and gardening tips. It will be available at the MIlford Public Library.

Meghan is the daughter of Heidi and Mark Warren, and she has a younger brother, Jack, who is a student at Notre Dame High School.

Her troop leaders are Kathi Bepko and Donna Witkins. Her mother is a troop leader, too. Paula Fromm served as Meghan's mentor, guiding her through the Gold Award process.  

Scouting was a big part of Meghan’s life. She said she most enjoyed trips that her troop took, including one to Washington D.C., and Savannah, Ga., the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of Girl Scouting.

Earning the Gold Award was very rewarding, she said.

“I’ve been in Girl Scouts so long and this is the top award,” she said. “It seemed a good way to end, and help the environment too.”