If Pioneer Park Aviary is to be saved, the time is now

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The Friends of Pioneer Park Aviary asked city officials for the opportunity to try to save the Aviary from being closed. It was granted.

Now the fate of the facility is in our community’s hands.

We formed a group two years ago to bridge the gap in funding when the Walla Walla City Council decided the city treasury didn’t have enough money to keep the Aviary open. At the time, we thought a bridge in funding was enough until the economy improves enough to allow the city to resume support.

Unfortunately, the city still finds itself having to cut costs and in some areas, to cut staff, leaving the Aviary to fend for itself. The Aviary is not alone.

Friends of Pioneer Park Aviary has taken on the task of saving and even improving this community asset.

We have just received our state of Washington nonprofit incorporation certificate and have begun a campaign to raise operating costs and capital improvement costs, and will attempt to acquire long-term sustaining funding.

The cost of running the Aviary is about $53,000 per year, with some fluctuation because of weather, and feed prices. We need about $20,000 more to fund the operation in 2013.

The city has in hand about $165,000 dedicated for capital improvements and we need about $70,000 more to complete a sorely needed rebuilding of the netting structures to provide a safe and healthy environment for the birds, an ethical responsibility.

The Aviary was started over 29 years ago by a group of citizens using donated funds, desiring an accessible, beautiful and educational wildlife oasis in Pioneer Park.

Since then, the Aviary has been a source of solace and joy to seniors, those convalescing from serious illnesses and the wheelchair bound.

The Aviary has been a place for education and delight for Scout groups, school field-trips and young children from all over the greater Walla Walla Valley.

Just recently we received a crayon note, left in the donation box, that was from a young mother who expressed her thanks and had donated a small amount, saying she was sorry she couldn’t offer more.

At the last Fourth of July in the Park, a middle-aged man in a wheelchair told me the Aviary was one of the few places he could go without assistance and escape to the joy of nature.

We have many of these types of stories and reminders of the importance of the Aviary.

We have had skateboarders donate all the money they had on them; we have had tiny kids lifted up by parents to put donations in our jars; we have had elderly spouses donate in the memory of their partners; people donate for grandkids; and certainly many businesses and individuals have donated very generously.

Civics 101, take care of our community.

So we come to you now, Walla Walla, and ask you for help in this endeavor.

The Aviary is a jewel here at the foot of the Blue Mountains, another asset that helps make the quality of life in Walla Walla a little bit better than somewhere else. Please consider giving what you can, and consider remembering the Aviary in your estate plans.

September will mark the 30th anniversary of the Aviary, please help us reach our goals for those of us here today and for those who will be here tomorrow.

Craig Keister is chairman of Friends of Pioneer Park Aviary.

Watch for its tent at Land Title Plaza, look at website FriendsofPioneerParkAviary.com, call at 520-5077 or 540-9673 or donate by mail at Friends, PO box 147, Walla Walla.

All donations are tax deductible, and conscience lifting. After all, it’s for the birds.

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