[TCRA] State budget cuts are threatening to close the doors of the Chippewa Moraine Visitor Center near New Auburn

Paul J Brooten kb9tyc at scanwisconsin.com
Sat Dec 11 03:45:11 CST 2004


This would be pretty sad if it happened - kb9tyc

The Natural Resources Board discussed the Department of Natural Resources
budget Wednesday, Dec. 8, during its monthly meeting in Madison. The DNR
has proposed closing the visitor center or turning it over to a volunteer
organization, according to Chippewa Moraine Chapter of the Ice Age Park
and Trail Foundation chairman Richard Smith.


Smith said the proposal cited a "discontinuation of operations" at the
center as part of massive DNR cuts, which included closing Hoffman Hills
Recreation Area in Dunn County and Aztalan State Park. The DNR is
proposing the discontinuation of three full-time employees with the cuts.
The DNR proposes to retain $136,500 in funds associated with the three
properties.
In essence, Smith explained, the cuts would discontinue the managerial
position at the Ice Age center, which is currently held by Brenda Rederer,
who was unavailable for comment.

The DNR is hoping to turn the center over to a volunteer organization, but
Smith claimed that the proposal was not a well-thought out plan.

"They would like to keep the money for that position to help pay for some
of the cost involved to operate," Smith said, "or maybe a contract for a
third party."
Rederer is the only full-time employee at the center. Several part-time
employees also work at the center.

Smith estimated that the center's budget was approximately $85,000. He
doubts a volunteer organization will be able to operate the center because
most of the volunteers are needed during the school year when students
visit the center. The volunteer pool is much smaller during that time of
year, Smith said.

"You can have a robust volunteer organization, but you still must have the
proper staff to organize operations," Smith said.

Smith said the feeling that the center is a non-revenue making facility is
myth, and feels optimistic that the cuts won't take place.

"The Ice Age center produces an enormous amount of federal revenue," Smith
stated. "We should have a fairly good case because there's a lot of
federal funding in place."

Approximately one-third of the center's visitors come from Wisconsin, and
another third come from 35 other states, Smith said. About 4,800 students
participated in direct instructional programming at the center in 2003, he
added. Students learned about the region's glacial history, the state's
history, and enjoyed a first-hand outdoors experience, Smith explained.

"The center has a huge impact on kids in this area," Smith noted.

The proposed closings were announced Friday, Smith said. He attended the
Natural Resources Board meeting Wednesday.


©The Chetek Alert 2004
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Paul J Brooten





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