Community must now rally behind effort to save the Aviary

The Center at the Park has provided a surety bond backed by its reserve funds to ensure the Aviary will be able to operate for a year.

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The Pioneer Park Aviary is staying open for at least another year.

Last week The Center at the Park, which offers programs for seniors, committed to put up the $55,000 needed to fund the Aviary for a year.

The Aviary, home to about 200 exotic birds, was targeted for closure as a way to balance the budget with an anticipated revenue shortfall of close to $2 million.

And while we understand tough choices have to be made, eliminating the Aviary seemed to be a shortsighted option. Once the facility is shut down and the birds are shipped to new homes elsewhere, it would be gone forever. The Aviary adds to the charm and appeal of Pioneer Park.

The funding crisis is a temporary one. This current recession, although longer and deeper than most, will end. Signs are that the economy is already on the upswing.

Still, even when city revenues return to normal, it would be prudent to find a dedicated source outside of government to fund the operation of the Aviary. This is the only way to provide long-term stability for something that is extremely nice and very popular but is not really an essential service.

And that is what The Center at the Park is attempting to do. The Center has put up the $55,000 as a surety bond backed by its reserve funds with the idea that community, civic organizations and businesses will come up with the money to keep the Aviary going this year and for years to come.

The Center President Herschel Fullerton said the goal is to raise $100,000 over the next 14 months.

Meanwhile, the Aviary is in need of repair. Damage was caused by heavy snow last December. Money is available through FEMA and the city is planning to move forward with the repairs when it's clear there is a long-term commitment from the community to fund the Aviary.

"The city looks forward to working with them (The Center Board members) and community at-large to find a way to provide stable future funding for the Aviary. Once this is accomplished it makes good fiscal sense to embark upon the necessary upgrades to the aviary enclosures with FEMA funding," City Manager Nabiel Shawa said. "... We are delighted that (The Center at the Park) Board has stepped forward with the leadership and financial commitment to keep the Aviary open."

Agreed.

And now the community must partner with The Center and city to raise the money to keep the Aviary operational in the future.

Donations can be sent to Save the Aviary, 720 Sprague Ave. Walla Walla, WA 99362. Donations can be made by credit card by We calling 509-527-3775.



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