SOUTHWEST HARBOR — After at least four years of discussion, the house at the Charlotte Rhoades Park and Butterfly Garden is finally set to be demolished and replaced by a smaller building.
At what is typically the end of the monarch migration from Maine, construction crews are scheduled to begin demolition on the building on Monday, Sept. 17. The park will officially be closed to visitors for the rest of the season at the end of the day on Sept. 16, which is about a month before it normally closes.
“We wanted to get this going so we can get this building up before the end of the year,” said Ann Judd, master gardener and secretary of the Southwest Harbor Conservation Committee. “When this [house] comes down, the new barn will not be on this site.”
It will be located further back on the property. Designed to be 500 square feet, the new building will have a handicap-accessible public restroom, room to store equipment and space to continue education and conservation regarding butterflies and other pollinators. Where the current structure sits will become a new driveway, new parking spaces and new planting grounds.
“We’re going to be doing a lot of new planting,” said Judd from the garden on Friday.
She was busy tagging butterflies, coordinating volunteers for a school field trip and helping a local contractor collect keepsakes from the house for a previous owner’s descendants.
Judd explained how social media was causing an uptick in the number of seasonal visitors to the butterfly garden.
“On a daily basis in August we can easily have 50 to 100 visitors per day,” she said. “We have to think seriously about capacity issues. We want to make sure we can retain the special place visitors have here.”
Charlotte Rhoades was a podiatrist who bought the house located on the shore of Norwood Cove and worked from it in the 1950s. When she died, Rhoades left the house to her good friend, Mary Coates. Through Coates’ donation, it became property of the town in 1973 with the stipulation it be used as a quiet place for picnics and play. Since then, it has been maintained, like other parks in the town, by the public works department.
This year marks its 20 year anniversary as a butterfly garden. In 1998, the Southwest Harbor Conservation Committee and students from Pemetic Elementary School went before voters at the annual town meeting to ask for support in creating a butterfly garden to promote conservation and sustainable garden practices. Most of the volunteers who care for the gardens and make themselves available for information are master gardeners.
Until about three years ago, the house on the property had a rental tenant in a second floor apartment. The first floor was reserved for municipal use; that’s where the current education and conservation programs take place.
For the last year the town’s conservation committee, made up of six members, a tree warden, a secretary and a Charlotte Rhoades Park Coordinator has been fundraising for the demolition and rebuild project. So far, they have raised $310,000 and are hoping to bring in another $80,000.
“We’ve been fundraising nonstop,” said Judd.
Demolition of the old house, construction of the new barn and necessary infrastructure work is expected to cost $180,000.
The town is contributing $37,000 to the project, according to Judd. At least $200,000 of the amount raised will be used for an endowment to continue programs.
“We’ve had a junior gardeners program this year,” said Judd, flitting off to welcome a bus from Tremont Consolidated School. “It’s a very happy place here.”