City, advocates at odds over rebuilding aviary enclosure

Friends of the Pioneer Park Aviary want a larger area to house the current population of birds.

Wild birds, along with one domestic goose hen, flock to Joanna Lanning, aviary caretaker, at meal time.

Wild birds, along with one domestic goose hen, flock to Joanna Lanning, aviary caretaker, at meal time. Don Davis

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WALLA WALLA — The Friends of the Pioneer Park Aviary and city officials are at odds over which of two aviary enclosures to rebuild.

Parks and Recreations Director Jim Dumont says the more pragmatic plan would involve rebuilding the enclosure located over the smaller pond nearer Division Street and getting rid of the larger enclosure.

Rebuilding the smaller structure would cost approximately $285,000, and just over $90,000 would have to be raised because the city has $190,000 in funding set aside for either project.

Friends of the Pioneer Park Aviary want the city to rebuild the structure that is roughly twice the size, twice the cost and located around the larger pond.

“Physically it (the smaller pond) is different. Is it operationally much different? Not a lot,” Dumont reported to Council at a work session last week.

He also noted that the smaller enclosure would house fewer birds, and that the aviary’s current population of 180-200 birds would have to be reduced 50 to 80 birds.

But the smaller enclosure would also cost less to operate.

“It reduces our bird collection and will save us time and effort that we could put toward education,” Dumont said.

Friends of the Pioneer Park Aviary spokesman Council member Shane Laib noted that operating costs will reduce with either option because both smaller in size than the current double-enclosure facility, and either new enclosure would require less maintenance.

Laib added that the larger enclosure is what the original founders intended for the aviary when it was built more than 30 years ago.

“We feel that taking away the large pond takes away the original concept. The second pen was built later on. We are already going to diminish the population when we take away the small pond,” Laib said.

Friends of the Pioneer Park Aviary member Trina Judd said some of the more popular birds would also have to be completely sold off or reduced if the city goes with the smaller design, including the swans and peafowl.

“My question would be, how big would the rebuilt aviary need to be for the citizens to continue to find value in it?” Judd wrote in a email to the Union-Bulletin.

The larger enclosure, however, comes at a price take of $375,000, which means close to $190,000 would have to be raised.

“Is $90,000 possible in a capital construction or $190,000 possible?” Dumont said, adding that the city is committed to fundraising for other causes.

“We are out raising funds for a splash pad right now. But we are about $140,000 short of our $400,000 goal.”

Friends of the Pioneer Park Aviary argue that they have yet to raise money for a capital construction project and that raising money for a new enclosure will be easier than raising money for operating costs.

“The Friend, we have raised over the course of three years $158,000 ... we feel confident that we can go out there and get the money,” Laib said.

The Council took no action on the aviary issue but is expected to discuss it further early next year.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

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