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The Pirates of Chula Vista

The City of Chula Vista’s financial ship is sinking. With a projected deficit of $20 million for the next fiscal year, the city is slashing services and tossing programs overboard, trying to stay afloat. One cut proposed by the city is to close the Chula Vista Nature Center.

The Chula Vista Nature Center, open since 1987, educates the public on regional wetland- and wildlife-conservation issues. Over 65,000 people visit the center each year; 15,000 of those are school children from around the city that visit free of charge.

During the past three weeks, community activists raised nearly $400,000 to keep the Nature Center open — One anonymous donor matched $125,000 in contributions from the community, the rest came from the Sempra Foundation.

Now the city is considering pillaging those funds to plug up the other holes in its budget.

Supporters of the Nature Center are urging community members to show up at a January 6 city-council hearing that could determine the fate of the center. They say that the city would be wasting more money by closing the center, considering that over the past ten years, the city — with help from some state grants and private donors — poured over $10 million into capital improvements (including a new shark aquarium and a bald eagle exhibit). Revenues from annual memberships would also need to be reimbursed.

The cost to operate the facility is a little over $900,000 a year, though it generates approximately $330,000 a year from grants and admission fees.

“There’s been very little commitment from our city management,” says one anonymous Nature Center volunteer, ”and very little direction from our city council on the future of the Nature Center. Now there are funds to keep it in operation for six months. But for many of our donors, they’re saying, 'Why are we going to donate when the Nature Center doesn’t even have the support of its own city?' There are no guarantees and little to no direction coming from the city.”

The city council will hear the staff’s recommendation on the future of the Nature Center at the January 6 meeting. Go tosavethechulavistanaturecenter.com for more.

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The City of Chula Vista’s financial ship is sinking. With a projected deficit of $20 million for the next fiscal year, the city is slashing services and tossing programs overboard, trying to stay afloat. One cut proposed by the city is to close the Chula Vista Nature Center.

The Chula Vista Nature Center, open since 1987, educates the public on regional wetland- and wildlife-conservation issues. Over 65,000 people visit the center each year; 15,000 of those are school children from around the city that visit free of charge.

During the past three weeks, community activists raised nearly $400,000 to keep the Nature Center open — One anonymous donor matched $125,000 in contributions from the community, the rest came from the Sempra Foundation.

Now the city is considering pillaging those funds to plug up the other holes in its budget.

Supporters of the Nature Center are urging community members to show up at a January 6 city-council hearing that could determine the fate of the center. They say that the city would be wasting more money by closing the center, considering that over the past ten years, the city — with help from some state grants and private donors — poured over $10 million into capital improvements (including a new shark aquarium and a bald eagle exhibit). Revenues from annual memberships would also need to be reimbursed.

The cost to operate the facility is a little over $900,000 a year, though it generates approximately $330,000 a year from grants and admission fees.

“There’s been very little commitment from our city management,” says one anonymous Nature Center volunteer, ”and very little direction from our city council on the future of the Nature Center. Now there are funds to keep it in operation for six months. But for many of our donors, they’re saying, 'Why are we going to donate when the Nature Center doesn’t even have the support of its own city?' There are no guarantees and little to no direction coming from the city.”

The city council will hear the staff’s recommendation on the future of the Nature Center at the January 6 meeting. Go tosavethechulavistanaturecenter.com for more.

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Comments
3

Yet another important and timely story Dorian. You are the workhorse of San Diego journalism. I always look forward to your articles.

Thanks for the great work you do. Whatever the Reader is paying you, it's not enough.

Best,

Fred

Jan. 3, 2009

If this nature center ,which I enjoy with my grandchildren and countless schoolchildren goes down ,I will personally see that the mayor and here co-conspirators, people of limited vision,end their public involvement in any capacity..ANGRY in Chula Vista

Jan. 4, 2009

It will be a shame if they close it. My son and I have had some good times there.

  • Joe
Jan. 5, 2009

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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