[TCRA] Resources board spares Ice Age center

Paul Brooten brootenp at bnso.org
Sat Dec 18 02:22:14 CST 2004

The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board rescinded a proposal to discontinue
service at the Chippewa Moraine Ice Age Trail and Interpretive Center near
New Auburn during its monthly meeting Wednesday, Dec. 8, in Madison.  

Resources Board member Steve Willett introduced the motion to pull the
Chippewa Moraine from a list of staff cuts on the proposal, and the motion
passed unanimously. 

 In testimony to the board, Chippewa Moraine chairman Richard Smith said the
facility plays an integral role in educating children about the state's
natural history. Nearly 5,000 students each year visit the Ice Age Visitors
Center and experience field trips to the wooded area. 

"We're blessed with thousands of lakes and many thousands of beautiful acres
of woodlands," Smith explained. "But here's a place that actually teaches
kids how to respect it all." 

He added that the Chippewa Moraine is a popular family destination.
One-third of the center's 16,000 visitors in 2003 were parents and
grandparents with their children and grandchildren, Smith said. 

The original proposal called for the elimination of a managerial position at
the interpretive center. The proposal then suggested the center adopt a
volunteer organization to staff the facility in order to keep it open. 

Smith used the Beaver Creek Reserve near Eau Claire as an example of
volunteers taking over operations of a facility similar to the Chippewa
Moraine. Beaver Creek has a "friends" organization with paid staff that
oversees operations, Smith explained. Beaver Creek, though just nine miles
from Eau Claire, still has problems drawing volunteers to the reserve, Smith

Considering the population surrounding the Chippewa Moraine, the Ice Age
Interpretive Center would be even more difficult to staff with volunteers,
Smith pointed out. He added that the Moraine has only a small group of
vounteers, a short history of programs, and a history of small donations. 

"At best, this will always require a paid staff to provide organization,
accountability, and consistency of program," Smith concluded. "The millions
of dollars invested in this property deserve better stewardship than dumping
it on an immature partner, which is even yet to be conceived." 

The Chippewa Moraine Ice Age Unit was opened in 1992. The unit employs 1.5
Limited Term Employees (LTEs) and a full-time manager.

According to Smith, about one-fourth of the unit's visitors come from a
radius of about 40 miles; one-third come from around the state, but outside
of the immediate area; and about one-third come from 37 other states. 

The Resources Board may have been hoping to avoid criticism from District 7
Congressman Dave Obey, who was responsible for reinstating $800,000 into the
federal budget for state park staff at all the Ice Age Reserve units
throughout the state. 
©The Chetek Alert 2004  

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