LIVINGSTON, NJ — The Township of Livingston celebrated the opening of a new Monarch Butterfly Garden that is now located outside of Livingston Town Hall thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Livingston Department of Public Works (DPW) and a group of Livingston students.

In 2016, Aalok Dhurandhar, Natasha Ahlawat, Neil Ahlawat, Srishti Dhurandhar, Ruhi Tawde, Ankita Sharma and Divya Chiplunkar—in grades 5 through 8 at the time—attended a Livingston Township Council meeting to raise awareness about the declining population of monarch butterflies in the area. The five active council members signed a pledge supporting their education and action efforts as the students presented their plan for a garden containing plants that draw monarch butterflies.

The students completed most of the planting work themselves to create the garden this spring, and a ceremony was held on Monday to celebrate the project’s completion.

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“This was one of the last things I did when I was going out of office [in 2016],” said Mayor Al Anthony, who signed a The Mayor's Monarch Pledge as mayor in 2016 to promote the creation of monarch-friendly environments throughout the township and to raise awareness about the species. “You guys are totally holding up your end of the bargain and I hope that we did too—because the whole council, 5-0, all signed that [pledge] and now we see the fruit of your labors here. It's tremendous…

“We went from one billion down to 60 million, so 90-percent fewer butterflies. I remember I was really amazed by that fact, so keep up the good work.”

During Monday’s ceremony, the seven Livingston students returned to explain that by creating this garden, they have “exposed Livingston to a variety of milkweeds that will help monarchs in this area and will help increase the population in the near future.” They also noted that the top causes for the decline in the monarch population is the lack of food and lack of habitat due to the increase in industrial buildings and factories.

The group promoted the various ways that community members can help Livingston to become a monarch-friendly town, such as planting the milkweeds that produce the nectar that will attract monarchs their backyards; avoiding the use of pesticides and other harmful chemicals to help not only the butterflies but other environmental issues as well; and spreading the word about the monarch population, their difficulties and the solutions to this problem.

Residents can now stop by Livingston Town Hall to see the Monarch Butterfly Garden and try to catch a glimpse of some visiting butterflies. They can also learn more about the plants by visiting https://monarchwatch.org/.

According to the DPW, which supplied and supervised use of the equipment and provided the plants, the Monarch Butterfly Garden measures approximately 100 square feet and was planted in the existing “rain garden” at the northwest corner of Town Hall. The plant species in the garden include Butterfly Weed (milkweed native to eastern North America), Raspberry Wine Bee Balm, Black Adder Agastache, Stella D’oro Daylily and Coreopsis Zagreb.

The mayor was full of praise on Monday for Livingston’s youth, as this presentation came shortly before the council honored third grader Matthew Smith for his appearance on "MasterChef Junior" and also honored members of Boy Scouts Troop 12 for a recent deed.

“Tonight’s been just a remarkable example of our youth in town and what a great future this country, this town, this world has,” he said.

Click on the headlines below to read about more recent accomplishments from Livingston’s younger residents:

Education:  Livingston Senior Earns $1,000 Scholarship as Student Liaison to Board of Education

Giving Back:  Livingston Volunteer Extraordinaire Danny Hubert Named Youth Citizen of the Year

Arts/Entertainment:  Livingston Student Wins Young Artist Concerto Competition to Earn Spot in Upcoming Concert

STEM:  Livingston Teen Blazes His Way to World Robotics Competition in Australia

Sports:  Richie DeMaio Caps Comeback Season for Livingston Baseball Team