Pioneer Park Aviary is treasure worth saving

But the long-term funding can only be sustained through a partnership between the city, Friends of Aviary and the community.

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The Aviary is a popular feature of Pioneer Park. That's been proven by the success of a fund-raising drive to keep the Aviary operating through this year.

More than $114,000 was raised -- with almost half from donations under $20 -- by volunteers after the City Council targeted the Aviary for closure in the midst of a budget crisis.

The Council agreed to keep the facility open through this year if private financial support could be found.

The Friends of Pioneer Park Aviary did a magnificent job. The group was as tenacious as it was creative in the ways it raised money for the Aviary, home to a wide assortment of birds.

Now the group would like to see the city support the facility into the next year. In addition, it wants the city to make necessary improvements to the Aviary, which was heavily damaged in December 2008 when a heavy, wet snow hit the area. The city collected $144,000 from the insurance payment 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 that. And it is worth spending that money as a capital improvement because it is a treasure," Friends of Pioneer Park Aviary spokesperson Craig Keister said.

The Aviary is, without a doubt, a local treasure.

And it could make sense to move ahead with the capital improvement project. The cost has been estimated at $354,000. The plan is to do the project in two phases.

The first phase, initially estimated at $240,000, would be a complete rebuild of the entire main netting enclosure. The second phase, with a price tag of $114,000, calls for renovating the rearing pen and greenhouse. It also includes a public viewing area in the rearing pen.

But this only makes sense if the operation costs will be covered into the future. Given the city government is still on uncertain financial footing, the Council should not agree to funding into the future unless the volunteers agree to continue the fund-raising efforts.

The volunteers don't necessarily have to come up with full funding, but a significant share might be necessary.

The Aviary's future can only be guaranteed with a continued partnership between the city government, Friends of Pioneer Park Aviary and the vast number of contributors in this community.

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