Panhandle Butterfly House & Nature Center

Panhandle Butterfly House & Nature Center

Grant Year: 2020 | Focus Area: Environment, Recreation & Preservation | Grant Amount: $106,000 | Grant Status: In Progress

Panhandle Butterfly House & Nature Center

Keep Santa Rosa Beautiful, Inc., dba Panhandle Butterfly House & Nature Center

Keep Santa Rosa Beautiful, Inc. is the official affiliate of Keep America Beautiful and Keep Florida Beautiful. Incorporated by the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce in 1994, the organization operated as Santa Rosa Clean Community System, Inc. until 2016 when the name was changed to Keep Santa Rosa Beautiful (KSRB). KSRB is dedicated to its mission of protecting and enhancing the environment through awareness, education, and action. KSRB’s programs “Drive it Home,” “Adopt-A-Spot,” and “Adopt-A-Highway” promote litter clean-ups for the Santa Rosa County area. Other programs include Rivers and Beach Clean-up and Recycle/Reuse. The organization provides a community garden, and for 21 years has operated the Panhandle Butterfly House. Originally located in Navarre, the Panhandle Butterfly House averaged about 14,000 visitors per year, with 35% from areas in Florida outside our tri-county area and the remainder from states outside Florida, including over a dozen different countries. The Butterfly House was displaced from its Navarre Park location in 2018.

Project Description

Keep Santa Rosa Beautiful recently acquired a property from the Blackwater River Foundation that includes a renovated historical house, a protected wetland area with nature trails and plenty of space to expand. The Panhandle Butterfly House was relocated to a 9 acre property in Milton. The historic home there, restored to commercial standards, will serve as a learning Nature Center. IMPACT 100 funds will be used to build a butterfly vivarium, which exhibits live butterflies in their natural habitat. The Panhandle Butterfly House has been an attraction beloved by locals and visitors alike. KSRB preserves a legacy of enhancing environmental awareness through intimate encounters with butterflies. Butterflies are a well known gateway species to spark interest in learning about the environment and other science topics. The Panhandle Butterfly House will display Florida native butterflies that allow visitors to learn about the species they will encounter in their own landscapes and natural areas. Recent studies confirm being outside in the natural world is good for mind, body, and soul, making them ideal to support mental health in young and old alike.

Community Impact

There are no other butterfly houses in the immediate region, with the closest in New Orleans, north Alabama, north Georgia, and Gainesville. The Panhandle Butterfly House and Nature Center butterfly vivarium will provide a first-hand look at all the Florida species native to our area. The vivarium is a primary teaching tool to educate people on Florida’s native butterflies and their habitat, with the hope that they will turn their new knowledge into positive environmental action. Also, eco-tourism is the fastest growing segment of the travel industry. The new location is easily accessible for tourists and locals alike with its proximity to I-10, and when combined with the Nature Center it will likely exceed the previous number of annual attendees of 14,000+. Students, the retired population, and special needs children will all benefit from being exposed to a wide variety of butterflies that will be featured at the new Butterfly House that will serve the Gulf Coast area and complement other Milton attractions like the West Florida Railroad Museum, Arcadia Mill and the Imogene Theater.