Latest effort to save Aviary worth trying

Once the birds have been shipped away and the Aviary is gone, it is never coming back. The Council made the right call to let citizens formulate a plan.

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The Pioneer Park Aviary has gotten yet another reprieve. It’s good news. The Aviary is a local treasure.

There is, once again, hope that the Aviary can continue operation and be improved.

The home to exotic birds will not be axed on Jan. 1 as scheduled. Instead, the City Council is giving a citizens’ group — the Friends of Pioneer Park Aviary — a few months to develop a plan and several fundraising programs to pay for the operation of the facility.

City officials had decided to eliminate funding for the Aviary, about $50,000 a year, because tax collections were less than anticipated. Serious cuts have been made in city government. For example, positions at the police and fire departments are not being filled and programs are being reduced or eliminated.

The city was in the process of finding homes for the birds when the Council gave the Friends of the Pioneer Park Aviary the green light to try another rescue effort. The $15,000 that had been budgeted to farm out the birds and take down the structures will now be used for three months of operation while the Friends of the Pioneer Park Aviary take action.

Two years ago citizens came together with an offer to raise $100,000 to keep the Aviary going through 2012. It was hoped the city would be in a financial position to again assume funding of the Aviary, but the economic situation for the city isn’t any better.

And while we continue to support the Aviary, we also understand that operating it is not an essential function of government. It’s not a critical service to citizens.

The Aviary is an extra that makes Pioneer Park, a crown jewel in this city, even better. It’s now clear the money is going to have to come from private sources. Governments at all levels are going to be running leaner.

If long-term private funding can be established, the city can go ahead with repairs to the facility that was heavily damaged in December 2008 when heavy, wet snow hit the area. The city collected $144,000 from insurance and $16,000 in Federal Emergency Management Agency funds.

“Part of our objective in the beginning was to show people that the population around the Valley wants (the Aviary). And it is worth spending that money as a capital improvement because it is a treasure,” Friends of Pioneer Park Aviary spokesman Craig Keister said during the initial fundraising campaign.

If this latest effort succeeds, the Aviary should be better than ever.

Although it’s a long shot, it’s one worth taking.

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