PUEBLO – About one month ago, the Nature and Wildlife Discovery Center of Pueblo told News 5 the organization was in trouble.
“If we continue on the trajectory we’re on, we can stay open for about a month,” commented Patty Kester, interim executive director for the organization.
Since that point, more discussions have happened with backers, they’ve applied for some grants and “[The center has] reduced the staff to about half of what it was and we have gotten some donations come in that have helped us,” Kester continued.
Additionally, the center raised membership prices for the 2019 season. It is also considering increasing parking rates at the River Campus and adding parking fees at the Mountain Campus.
Currently, the group is working to see how much prices should increase but assured us that it wanted to keep the increase reasonable.
The center is continuing to work on how best to provide ongoing quality programming.
Included in those considerations is how to move forward with one of their biggest educational programs, the “Earth Studies” program.
According to both nature center and Pueblo City School staff, the program has been providing students from District 60 a valuable experience for 16 years.
The problem here, is that the program is very expensive, and despite many donors and contributing parties, nature center staff say they still pay a considerable overhead.
NWDC is working with partners to figure out what the future of the program will look like.
Now, Kester is cautiously optimistic, “But we’re still in trouble,” she commented.
Since August, the organization has gone before the Pueblo City Council, “Certainly the seriousness of the situation sunk in immediately,” Councilman Bob Schilling stated, “We asked them to come back and let us know how they’re going to be able to survive and what some of their options are.”
Initial options that were discussed included:
- Cutting more staff, which (since April), has decreased from 32 full-time employees to seven. The organization relies heavily on volunteers and a few part-time employees to pick up the slack.
- Altering certain programming
- Holding more fundraisers
- Having the center solely focus on programming, while the city takes care of maintenance
According to Pueblo city officials, they have no intention of letting the land, which is a city-owned asset, fall into disrepair.
Additionally, Schilling feels that the NWDC provides a valuable service to city residents.
“Can we do all of this? The answer is yes. Do we want to do all of it? No,” stated Schilling.
According to Schilling and Kester, it will take the city and center working together and an increased effort on the part of the Pueblo citizens.
“It’s a three-legged stool. It’s the city, it’s the board, and it’s got to be the citizens. Otherwise, it all falls over,” said Schilling.
Going forward, the organization has another meeting with the city council this coming week, but Kester is already looking to the future.
“I’m cautiously optimistic that we’re going to find the solutions. We’re going to grow and become stronger, possibly because we’ve gone through this tough time,” she finished.
Coming up, the organization is hosting a large fundraising event Oct. 13 at the nature center’s river campus in Pueblo. The Naturepalooza is planned to host a variety of activities for families to engage in.
To learn more about the Nature & Wildlife Discover Center and any of their programs, you can follow THIS LINK.