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oleander acres butterfly conway rd mission tx web origAn experience from some 15 years ago finally bore wings in 2016 and is celebrating Mission’s ever-growing reputation as the Butterfly Capital of the nation.

Maxilou Link, president of the Upper Valley Art League (UVAL), related that she went to Mexico to visit the well-known mountain destination migration site of Monarch butterflies, where they winter at a preserve around the 10,000-foot elevation.

“I was enthralled in seeing trees that didn’t look like trees because of how they were packed with the butterflies,” she said. “The Monarchs were like a cloud when they left their perches, landing on pathways and on the tourists’ head, shoulders and arms.”

Link, a resident of Mission, wanted to do something to beautify the city about eight years ago after recalling her Mexico trip. She began thinking about those butterflies, realizing how many of the species travel through the Rio Grande Valley during migration periods.

Mission is home to the National Butterfly Center, with the location of the center chosen by the North American Butterfly Association because of the wide variety of butterfly species that are either native to or that migrate through the area. The Butterfly Center has recorded more than 200 butterfly species on the 100-acre preserve near the Rio Grande River, some 150 of those species can only be seen in the Lower Rio Grande Valley or by traveling into Mexico. The Lower Rio Grande Valley is host to more than 300 species of butterflies – about 40 percent of the 700 plus butterfly species that are found in the United States. The southernmost tip of Texas, with its subtropical climate is ideal for the migrating butterflies, including rare types that draw butterfly enthusiasts coming to the Rio Grande Valley just to see them.

During a sculpture class Link was taking taught by the locally well-known sculptor Douglas Clark, they hatched the idea of creating butterfly sculptures that would beautify the city and also draw attention to the center. But the idea didn’t fly then.

Just over two years ago, the cocooned idea re-emerged and Link, with the support of Clark and the UVAL, took a clay-like butterfly replica to Mission Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas. He liked what he saw and with the city councilmen in agreement, they had a Queen butterfly sculpture placed in front of city hall. The $1,000 painted sculpture was given a slight modification to extend a leaf outward so it’s possible for an individual to sit next to the butterfly for a photo opp.

The installation on April 12, 2016 was supervised by Brad Bentsen, head of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, and Clark along with the Monarch artists Cesar Gonzalez and Yolanda Colin, both of Reynosa. The base of the sculpture is made of fiberglass with intricate details of a branch tree bark and leaf. The body of the Queen Monarch is also fiberglass, from which a chrysalis dangles underneath, suspended by a steel cable. The antennas are made of flexible wire to reduce breaking.

The city followed up the city hall sculpture with a purchase of 10 more, slightly smaller butterflies of the Monarch and other species. While Link had gone up and down Conway Avenue looking for good outdoor locations, the city decided upon sites. Most of the locations were the same ones Link had wanted, with Bentsen doing all the installations for the city.

Of course, the butterflies needed to be painted and Link found a number of student helpers from area schools along with some other people interested in the project. The volunteers used automotive paint to protect against the sun and weather. While the base, leaves and body are all fiberglass, the wings are made of steel. Each of the butterflies are different in style and colors.

Link has been inviting individuals, businesses and organizations to sponsor a butterfly, which cost $550 unpainted or $1,000 fully completed and installed. There is a catalogue listing types available, like the Barrel Slasher, Giant Tail Swallow, Fiery Skipper and Tawny Emperor as well as the popular Monarch. To find out more call the Art League office at 956-583-2787.

The idea caught on right away with others, starting with Oleander Acres RV Park on South Conway Avenue. The park did its own installation wanting a higher base for its Monarch, according to Link, who with Clark, usually do the installing. Actually Link, who is a spry 93 years old, indicated she is more of a supervisor on the installation projects. “Clark gets the heavy part, but has a lift,” she said.

One of the latest was at Fiesta Village RV Park on South Stewart Road, which is painted in the colors of the Texas and American flags. It was one of three installed this past weekend. The other two included Green Gate Grove on South Bentsen Palm Drive and at the intersection of Taylor Road and Nolana Avenue.

Dr. Kevin Sparks painted his own sculpture, giving it a distinct coloring, related to the Dallas Cowboys team colors. It is located at the intersection of Tom Landry Drive and Miller Street.

The mayor’s office at 500 East Ninth Street, has a Swallowtail butterfly in front. The mayor also purchased two for himself, with Link relating that one of his escaped to the Alton community. His other one is to be installed at the west intersection of Taylor Road and Nolana Avenue.

City Manager Martin Garza Jr. has bought three that are still to be installed. A total of seven are up for installation at various public and private sites in the near future.

Link said there is more to do as she is working with the Mission Chamber of Commerce and the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission to create a visitor’s map marking the locations of the different butterflies around the city, which would be updated when new sculptures are installed. She also expects to see flyers developed explaining the butterfly program.

The lower Rio Grande Valley is host to more than 300 species of butterflies, according to the Butterfly Center here, a project of the non-profit North American Butterfly Association. The center itself has recorded 150 butterfly species that can only be seen in this area or by traveling into Mexico.

Actually, about 40 percent of the 700 plus butterfly species that are found in the United States can be seen in the three-county area of Hidalgo, Cameron and Willacy. The southernmost tip of Texas, with its subtropical climate is ideal for the migrating butterflies, including rare types that draw visitors coming to the Rio Grande Valley just to see them.

But now, in addition to the butterfly center, there are growing opportunities to see a number of the different butterfly sculptures throughout the city of Mission.

Butterfly Locations
Mission City Hall, 1201 East Eighth St., Monarch
SE corner of Conway Ave. and First St., Monarch
NW corner of Conway and Interstate 2, Zebra Heleconenian
Conway and Fifth St., Two Barrel Slasher
Conway and Tom Landry Dr., Malachite
Conway and 18th St., Red Admiral
SE corner Conway and Kika de la Garza, Cloudless Sulfer
SE corner Conway and Rafael Ramirez, Two Barrel Slasher
Speer Library, Giant Tail Swallow
Mayor’s office, 500 East 9th, Swallowtail
Tom Landry and Miller St., Monarch
SW corner Bryan Road and Business 83, Fiery Skipper
So. island Bryan and Interstate 2, Tawny Emperor
Business 83 and Francisco Dr., Swallowtail
201 East Eighth St., Queen Monarch
Oleander Acres RV Park, South Conway Ave., Monarch
Others can be found at Taylor and Nolana,
Fiesta Village RV Park. 205 So. Stewart Road,
Green Gate Grove on South Bentsen Palm Dr., Ash St. Apartments,
Kika de la Garza Fine Arts Center (UVAL), 921 East 12th St.,
Retama Village, 2500 South Bentsen Palm Dr. West entry island to Mission,
Barcelona Estates, Stewart Road between Business 83 and Griffin Pkwy,
Entry to Lions Park at 1308 East Kika de la Garza Loop,
3813 North Taylor Road, Iglesia de Cristo,
Norberto Salinas Park, 115 East Los Indios

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