If you haven't yet, take a stroll through Decorah's Prairie Community Garden and enjoy the beautiful panorama. The monarch butterflies have slowly arrived, making it even more marvelous! It is located across the dike from Aasse Haugen Home, where many residents take advantage of the proximity. With help of the care providers or family, the nearby residents can use the handicap accessible walkway that weaves through butterfly garden to enjoy the beauty of nature. The paved path is also perfect for pushing children in strollers.
To get there you can take fifth avenue east from College Drive Bridge and turn south on Ohio Street. At the end of Ohio, take a left to drive arund Aase Haugen. You go over the dike to get there.
The prairie reconstruction and butterfly garden of local ecotype prairie species began being planted in the floodplain of the Upper Iowa River in 2001 and continued in 2002 and now covers 36 acres. The prairie mowed walkways with bird houses along the way gives you a chance to see different wildlife as you wander through the prairie.
If you are thinking of starting your own, you may be interested in what is planted in the prairie and butterfly garden area: Canada Anemone, New England Aster, Sky Blue Aster, Smooth Blue Aster, Foxglove Beardtongue, Wild Bergamot, Black-eyed Susan, Sweet Black-eyed Susan, Butterfly Weed, Purple Prairie Clover, White Prairie Clover, Compass Plant, Pale Purple Coneflower, Yellow Coneflower, Culver's Root, Cup Plant, Golden Alexander, Heart-leaved Golden Alexander, Canada Goldenrod, Old Field Goldenrod, and Showy Goldenrod.
The plan was well thought-out, with limestone boulders, native to the bluffs of the Upper Iowa River placed in a semi-circle to provide seating for educational events, both for the community, schools, and nearby colleges. Creating the restoration below the limestone bluffs of Phelps City Park gives park visitors a panoramic vista of the prairie. There is also a large canopy with picnic tables by the butterfly garden to provide shade or rest, since the prairie thrives in full sun.
Why is having a prairie so important? Research found that most of the native prairie of the Midwest has been lost. Iowa currently has 1/10 of 1 percent of its 23.5 million acres of presettlement tallgrass prairie. The 36 acres of prairie in Decorah can educate people, possibly resulting in multiplying the effect with additional prairies and preserve existing prairie remnants. With the appreciation of wildlife interaction, it can lead to more landowners wanting a special prairie on their landscape.
On Monday mornings you can volunteer to help get rid of evasive plants supervised by Jerri Osenga, who is the unofficial steward of the local prairie and as a result, you may learn more about the prairie.