The entrance to Dolly Parton’s Dollywood theme park features a large butterfly. Parton has always felt drawn to the creature and even has a tattoo of one. She also is doing her part to make sure that butterflies have a safe path for migration. With Dollywood, she has helped fund a bald eagle rehabilitation and education center. As the organization gears up to open another center in Sevierville, where Parton is from, it will also focus on helping migrating butterflies.
Dolly Parton has always loved butterflies
Parton grew up in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains, where she spent many days chasing butterflies. She once wandered so far from home in pursuit of a butterfly that she required the help of her family cow in order to get back home.
“When I was little I would wander off, chasing butterflies into the woods, so they had to come find me,” Parton told National Geographic. “I always related to them because I felt like they were harmless and they were colorful — kinda like I think that I am. They’re just meant to be mine, I think.”
The butterfly has come to be a symbol of Parton as an artist. She even has a tattoo of one.
With Dollywood, Dolly Parton is helping protect bald eagles and monarch butterflies
At Dollywood, Parton’s theme park, she opened an eagle sanctuary in order to protect the species.
“We have an eagle sanctuary at Dollywood, where we take injured eagles, nurture them, and release them back into the wild,” she wrote in the book Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics. “Back when we started it, bald eagles were beginning to be extinct. We’ve helped to get it back to where they aren’t so scarce anymore.”
The center works to rescue eagles and other birds. If they cannot be released back into the wild, they remain at Dollywood.
“To date we’ve released over 180 bald eagles into the wild in the Smoky Mountains,” explained Jessica Hall, the executive director of the American Eagle Foundation. “It’s incredible: We’ve tracked our bald eagles in Ohio and Florida. We feel strongly that we have played a small but important role in the repopulation of the bald eagle species in the South.”
In 2023, the American Eagle Foundation will open a larger facility in Sevierville, where Parton grew up. Hall explained that Dollywood, which is the foundation’s largest corporate sponsor, is “instrumental” in the foundation’s success. Because of this, the new center will also include a way station for migrating monarch butterflies “in honor of Dolly.”
She says we need to do more to protect the environment
Beyond helping eagles and butterflies, Parton wants people to do better for the environment as a whole. Growing up in the beauty of the Smoky Mountains gave her an appreciation for nature, and she wants others to do more to protect it.
“We should pay more attention. We’re just mistreating Mother Nature — that’s like being ugly to your mama,” she said. “We need to take better care of the things that God gave us freely. And that we’re so freely messing up.”