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Gainesville named nation's first Butterfly City

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Posted: Thursday, June 18, 2009 12:00 am

Gainesville is known for its alligators, bats and, soon, butterflies.

The City of Gainesville will receive its Butterfly City Certification, the first being awarded in the nation, for its butterfly rain forest at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

"It's my favorite place on the globe," said Gabriel Hillel, one of the founders of the Butterfly Education Project, the organization granting the certification.

Hillel and Peter Johnson, who owns his own small butterfly garden, started the quest to recognize Gainesville for its butterfly rain forest after students at the Caring and Sharing school for kindergarten to fifth grade enjoyed the time they spent learning about butterflies and making butterfly art.

"People get excited about going green, energy and light, but it is hard for children to grasp these concepts," Hillel said.

According to Hillel, designating Gainesville as a "Butterfly City" will help continue to teach children how fragile the environment is while creating some excitement in eco-tourism.

Gainesville has been designated as a "Tree City" for almost 25 years, and Hillel hopes this new "Butterfly City" designation will bring in more tourists.

"What 'Tree City' did for 20th century, 'Butterfly City' will do for the 21st century," Hillel said.

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