The inaugural Monarch Butterfly Festival and Run, taking place on Sunday (October 15) at Millennium Park in Peterborough, is raising awareness about the plight of the endangered monarch butterfly and funds for conservation work in Mexico to restore pollinator habitat lost to deforestation.
The event is being organized by the Monarch Ultra, a community-led group founded in 2018 by Peterborough residents Carlotta James and Rodney Fuentes. In the fall of 2019, the Monarch Ultra completed an epic ultra-marathon relay run from Peterborough in Canada to the Sierra Madre mountains in central Mexico — the same 4,300-kilometre journey monarch butterflies make each fall. In the fall of 2021, accommodating pandemic restrictions, the group completed an 1,800-kilometre relay run in southern Ontario.
During both events, the Monarch Ultra raised awareness about the plight of the monarch butterfly and promoted local action to protect their habitat — something that became even more important in July 2022 when the International Union for Conservation of Nature officially designated the migratory monarch butterfly as endangered, finding the native population of the butterfly has declined by between 22 and 72 per cent over the past decade, largely due to human-caused destruction of milkweed (the host plant that monarch larvae feed upon) and deforestation of the monarch’s over-winter habitat.
“Recognizing that monarch butterflies are endangered should inspire action on several levels, and one way is for communities to protect and increase biodiversity along the migratory path which ultimately helps all wildlife species,” says Monarch Ultra co-founder Carlotta James.
“There are multiple ways that you can help save the monarch butterfly. That first one is to plant milkweed and nectar rich flowers. You can influence governments to create better policies that protect biodiversity and wild spaces. And you can donate to Nación Verde, and other conservation organizations, who are protecting habitat for monarch butterflies and other forest dwellers.”
Instead of an ultra-marathon relay run, this year the Monarch Ultra will be more accessible to more runners with a morning 10-kilometre race and one-kilometre fun run for kids on October 15, followed by the family-friendly Monarch Butterfly Festival in the afternoon.
All proceeds from the race and run will be donated to Nación Verde, a non-profit conservation organization in Mexico that is helping to restore habitat loss from deforestation in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve.
The organization works in several areas, including conservation, regeneration, and protection of the environment. This year, Nación Verde is planning to plant 100,000 Oyamel fir trees along 100 hectares which, beyond protecting biodiversity, will help fight climate change, minimize soil erosion, and reduce carbon dioxide.
Although registration for the race and run closed on Wednesday, members of the community are welcome to watch the race and run on Saturday, both of which begin and end at Millennium Park, with the kids fun run starting at 9:30 a.m. and the 10-kilometre race starting at 10 a.m.
Monarch Ultra race director Jodi McNeill is encouraging all race participants to dress up in monarch costumes.
“I would love to see a sea of orange and black along the race route,” McNeill says. “An image of humans running with wings will mimic the monarch migration which takes place around the same time as our race.”
For the chip-timed 10-kilometre race, runners will head south to the rail bridge, crossing the Otonabee River into East City, running north to Sophia Street and east along Sophia to the entrance to the Rotary Greenway Trail, and then proceed north along the trail to the turnaround point beside Thomas A. Stewart Secondary School.
After the race, participants, their families, and members of the community are invited to attend the Monarch Butterfly Festival, which runs from noon until 4 p.m.
The festival includes the presentation of race awards and prizes, musical performances by Viva Mexico Mariachi and Micaiah, face painting, a craft table, a Peterborough Public Library kids’ reading corner, dance performances and presentations, a puppet show by Glen Caradis, zumba lessons by Ana Maria Zapata, and information booths showcasing sustainability and biodiversity initiatives.
For more information about the Monarch Ultra, visit www.themonarchultra.com.