The theft of a solar powered fountain from the Roston Native Butterfly House at Springfield’s Botanical Gardens raised questions and a discovery by park visitors is just adding to the mystery.
During overnight hours on August 21, a thief cut the netting around the butterfly house and stole pruning shears, and rose bush, several ceramic frogs, a net enclosure full of cocoons and live moths, and the colorful half-foot-tall “Troll’s Cottage Bubbler” fountain.
The theft of the fountain made news because of the unique nature of the item. Chris Barnhart, volunteer curator for the butterfly house, adapted the fountain for the residents of the house.
“My husband [Chris] had spent a lot of time modifying it so it would work as a solar fountain,” Debra Barnhart said in a statement. “It was originally made for an aquarium, but he built a concrete base that is a well that holds the water for the pump. The kids (who visit) really like it because it’s whimsical.”
Two days after the theft, Tiffany Reichert was taking her family for a walk around the gardens when her 8-year-old daughter Alaynna spotted the fountain in a wooded area.
“My little girl saw it and said, ‘Look at that — how cute!’” said Reichert, “She loves little cottages and gnomes, and she has an eagle eye for things like that.”
The family thought it was odd the fountain was there, but as they are new to the area, didn’t know it wasn’t supposed to be there.
When the family saw a photo of the missing fountain on the Friends of the Garden’s facebook page, they realized they had found it, and notified park staff.
“I showed it to my little girl to confirm, and she was like, ‘Mom that’s definitely it!’” said Reichert.
Friends of the Garden development director Lisa Bakerink was very happy to have the fountain returned to the butterfly house.
“Chris and Deb pour their heart and soul into that place — not only their time, but the knowledge it takes to raise caterpillars and butterflies for the house,” said Bakerink, who is also executive director of Springfield Sister Cities Association, based at Springfield Botanical Gardens.
“Chris had taken the time to put together the fountain and to make it solar powered. This little feature seems minor, but it’s really a major thing for them to share it, and to see the joy it brings to little kids’ faces.”
None of the other stolen items have been recovered as of Monday morning.
A good side effect of the theft has been increased awareness and donations to the butterfly house, which has seen a decrease due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We don’t near have the amount of donations we normally have for this time of year, and anything people give will help us catch up and provide for the butterfly house this season,” Debra Barnhart said.
Donations may be made through FriendsoftheGarden.org.