By Steve Chawkins
Los Angeles Times
Pacific Grove residents demand the city make up for last year’s pruning that reduced the eucalyptus branches in a monarch sanctuary. What if the butterflies don’t return, they ask.
Reporting from Pacific Grove, Calif. — In Pacific Grove, you don’t rile butterflies or the people who love them. Monarch butterflies are as much a part of Pacific Grove as movies are of Hollywood. The city of 15,000 calls itself “Butterfly Town USA.” A municipal ordinance imposes a fine of $1,000 for butterfly molestation. In a rite of passage known to all Pacific Grove parents, kindergarteners are decked out for the annual Butterfly Parade with black-and-orange wings — a tradition since 1939.
So last fall, when a city contractor did what many see as an overly zealous pruning job in the town’s famous Monarch Grove Sanctuary, residents were angry. And when a butterfly census found only 793 migrating monarchs – down from more than 17,800 at the same time the year before — tourists stayed away. Business for the season plummeted by more than 25%.
At a City Council meeting last week, Mayor Carmelita Garcia apologized for the city’s mismanagement of the tree cutting, calling it “a horrible mistake.” In the audience, people who had come to hear about emergency sanctuary repair wore toy butterfly antennae that bobbed up and down as the mayor spoke.
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