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A public butterfly garden has been proposed for a portion of the Corrales Interior Drain. The idea was floated by a member of the committee appointed by Mayor Jo Anne Roake to recommend future uses of the drainage ditch east of Corrales Road between Valverde Road and Riverside Drain (“Clear Ditch”).

When the advisory committee was established last year, it was to submit recommendations by August 2021. So far, not even draft recommendations have been developed; the group chaired by Doug Findley will soon launch an effort to gain additional public input before summer. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIX No.12 September 5, 2020 “Any Ideas To Improve Interior Drain?”)

Other members of the committee include Sayre Gerhart, John Perea, Jeff Radford and Rick Thaler. At the very least, a butterfly garden along the Interior Drain could expect to attract Monarch, Queen, Painted Lady,  Mourning Cloak, Two-Tailed Swallowtail, Black Swallowtail and Cabbage White varieties, according to Katie Carillo, an educator for the Albuquerque Biopark  who formerly staffed the Butterfly Pavillion.

“I am sure there are many more!” that would love to feed along the drainage ditch. “Monarchs are very specialized and will only use milkweed as a host plant, so having a network of native varieties along their migration route is crucial,” Carillo added. Monarch butterflies pass through the Rio Grande corridor during their 3,000-mile, two-month migration to central Mexico. They are known to have a taste for horsetail milkweed and showy milkweed.

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At the Corrales Interior Drain Committee’s March 12 meeting, Radford said he  hoped to include a butterfly garden in the group’s proposal. He explained his interest in such a project began more than a decade ago when he learned that the place name for the Corrales area in Santa Ana Pueblo’s Keres language is Puraika, which means “the place of butterflies.”

He said he had only recently confirmed the meaning of that word by consulting a Keres-English glossary, which yielded the word for butterfly as Buuraika. He said using part of the drainage ditch for a butterfly garden would be a way to honor this area’s Native American heritage while restoring an attractive feature for this community. Responses from other members of the committee were positive. Draft minutes of the March 12 meeting indicated “The committee fully supports this, and considers it a beautiful unifying theme that can guide the full drain’s re-development including landscaping guidelines. The concept helps distinguish the Drain project from  other natural and trail areas of the village.”

No specific stretch of the long drainage ditch was identified as a possible location for the butterfly garden. The ditch was created by the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District in the 1930s, primarily to dry out, or drain, adjacent swampy land so it could be used for agriculture. Groundwater from the upper water table slowly drains into the ditch which conveys it southward to the  Corrales Riverside Drain which itself empties into the Rio Grande at Alameda Bridge. But over the years, the ditch’s hydraulics have failed to function well; stagnant, sometimes smelly, water accumulates. And it bred scads of mosquitoes until the 1980s when the Conservancy District introduced gambusia fish, which devour mosquito larvae, into the ditch.

Back then, the District’s executive engineer, Subhas Shah, met with nearby concerned residents to discuss problems and how they might be addressed. One of the options, he suggested, was that the open ditch could be replaced by a buried perforated culvert which would still collect drained groundwater and take it to the Riverside Drain. That idea was never pursued, nor was a thorough rehabilitation of the ditch’s hydraulic capacity.

Then last year, Findley began inquiring whether other villagers shared his goal of creating a community asset from the deteriorating drainage ditch. He is the son of Tommie and Jim Findley, who was primary co-founder of the Corrales Bosque Preserve. Doug Findley persuaded Mayor Jo Anne Roake to appoint a task force, or committee, to explore what might be done to enhance the ditch and ditchbank roads. The committee was established and has begun soliciting public input before making recommendations to the mayor and council.

The MRGCD’s current executive director, Mike Hamman and members of his staff have discussed the project with Findley and his committee. Hamman has indicated conceptual support for a re-visioning of how the Interior Drain property might be used. The group composed the following statement: “Our mission is to identify and help to implement ways in which the Interior drain and right-of-way may be improved for safe, enjoyable and essential public use while maintaining tranquility for adjacent residents.”

In 2004, the N.M. Legislature formally named the Sandia Hairstreak as the state’s official butterfly. The following kinds of butterflies are found in New Mexico. Admirals and relatives: “Astyanax” Red-spotted Purple, Red-spotted Purple, Ruddy Daggerwing, Viceroy, Weidemeyer’s Admiral

Emperors: Empress Leilia, Hackberry Emperor, Silver Emperor, Tawny Emperor, Longwings,  Aphrodite Fritillary, Arctic Fritillary, Atlantis Fritillary, Callippe Fritillary,  Edwards’ Fritillary,  Freija Fritillary,  Great Spangled Fritillary,  Gulf Fritillary,  Isabella’s Heliconian,  Mexican Fritillary,  Mexican Silverspot,  Mormon Fritillary,  Nokomis Fritillary,  Northwestern Fritillary,  Silver-bordered Fritillary, Variegated Fritillary, Zebra Heliconian

Milkweed Butterflies:  Monarch,  Queen, Soldier, Snouts, American Snout, True Brushfoots, American Lady, Bordered Patch, California Tortoiseshell, Common Buckeye, Crimson Patch, Definite Patch, Dotted Checkerspot, Eastern Comma, Green Comma, Hoary Comma, Milbert’s Tortoiseshell, Mourning Cloak, Mylitta Crescent Northern Checkerspot, Northern Crescent Painted Crescent, Painted Lady, Pearl Crescent, Phaon Crescent, Question Mark, Red Admiral, West Coast Lady, White Peacock

Parnassians and Swallowtails:  Rocky Mountain Parnassian, Swallowtails, Anise Swallowtail, Black Swallowtail, Broad-banded Swallowtail, Giant Swallowtail, Indra Swallowtail, Old World Swallowtail, Ornythion Swallowtail, Palamedes Swallowtail, Pale Swallowtail, Pipevine Swallowtail, Polydamas Swallowtail, Two-tailed Swallowtail, Western Tiger Swallowtail

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