SAFFORD — The Safford Lions Club carried on its tradition of community service Saturday, Jan. 25, with a project to benefit the Gila Valley’s environment.

Club members, along with members of the Safford Leos, gathered at the Discovery Park Campus of Eastern Arizona College as part of a nationwide Lions’ Day of Service. Joined by some other volunteers, the Lions and Leos pitched into an endeavor to benefit the monarch butterfly as the butterflies’ population declines.

“We’re here because environment is one of the Lions Clubs International’s areas of concern,” said Chris Gibbs, Lions District 21-B district governor and Safford Lions Club service coordinator. “We’re here because of the monarch butterflies, which need more milkweed for laying eggs and a food source. These butterflies are a prime desert pollinator.”

The Lions came to Discovery Park to plant 622 milkweeds, provided by the Gila Watershed Partnership. Steve Plath, the partnership’s native plant nursery director, gave a short talk on milkweeds and showed the volunteers how to plant them.

“I’m so happy for this collaboration because the Lions have a lot of muscle; they’re the biggest service organization in the Valley,” said Gila Watershed Partnership executive director Melanie Tluczek, who is also the Lions’ environmental chair. “To have them come out and be behind one of these efforts, this is just a perfect collaboration.”

Also contributing to the planting were local Girl Scouts and members of the Treehouse Project, formed in 2019 by Safford teens Jordan Walker, 13, and Arrow Hargis, 12, with a goal of planting native trees throughout the Gila Valley.

“We deliver trees almost every weekend,” Walker said. “A lot of kids at school have gotten interested in the project, and that’s good.”

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