Friends of the Monarchs was founded as a citizens group in 1988 by Jean Arthur and Jane Haines with the goals of restoring and improving the habitat for monarch butterflies in Pacific Grove and surrounding communities. The group sought to educate the public about monarch butterflies and the importance of the ecologically sensitive habitat for their survival during the winter months when they come to Pacific Grove. At the time there were two principal locations within Pacific Grove where monarch butterflies overwintered: George Washington Park and a private property owned by Edna Diveley near the Butterfly Grove Inn on Lighthouse Avenue. However, by February, 1990, Mrs. Diveley had applied for City approval to develop her property. Concerned that development of the property would destroy the monarch habitat, Pacific Grove voters approved a bond measure in 1990 which raised $1.2 million, nearly enough to pay Mrs. Diveley fair market value for her property. The California Wildlife Conservation Board provided the remaining amount in exchange for a conservation easement over what became the Pacific Grove Monarch Butterfly Ecological Reserve. A copy of the conservation easement can be viewed here.
By 1992, Ro Vaccaro had moved to Pacific Grove to pursue her passion to protect the monarch butterflies that overwinter here. Ro assumed leadership of Friends of the Monarchs and led the group through its incorporation as a nonprofit corporation in April of that year. Ro continued to be an advocate for the monarchs and leader of Friends of the Monarchs for many years.
In subsequent years Friends of the Monarchs worked diligently to ensure the Pacific Grove Monarch Butterfly Ecological Reserve (“Monarch Sanctuary”) was managed as intended when the land was purchased by the City; that is, as an ecological preserve to protect monarch butterfly overwintering habitat. Several Friends of the Monarchs members served as volunteer docents to guide and educate visitors about the monarchs in the Sanctuary. By 2006, Ro Vaccaro developed health issues that limited her activities and she moved into a convalescent home. In November, 2007, Ro Vaccaro and then President Sharon Blaziek signed forms required to dissolve Friends of the Monarchs as a nonprofit corporation. Ro Vaccaro passed away on January 8, 2008.
In January, 2020, local residents concerned about the deterioration of monarch habitat in the Sanctuary and throughout Pacific Grove decided to revive Friends of the Monarchs. As of this writing it is our intention to incorporate as a nonprofit corporation by the end of the year. Current Committee Members of Friends of the Monarchs are:
Dixie Layne, Chair
Dominick Sinicropi, Secretary
Gabriela Chavez, Treasurer
Robert Pacelli, Committee Member
Clemencia Macias, Committee Member