Sustain the nature center

It’s going to take participation by the public to keep it viable

The Chico Creek Nature Center in Bidwell Park is a valuable resource to the community, so we’re glad to see that its board of directors, which will become an advisory board in January, has developed a partnership with the Chico Area Recreation and Park District (CARD) with the goal of making the struggling center sustainable for the foreseeable future (see “A new deal,” by Evan Tuchinsky, page 8).

The nature center’s solvency has long been an issue. It has struggled to repay the city the loan it took out in 2008 to build the excellent exhibit hall and classroom facility that, due to a dearth of funding, has not been used to its potential. Money issues have plagued the organization for years, as city funding allocated to it has dried up in response to the Great Recession and the city’s ever-expanding payroll expenses, especially for public safety personnel.

Under ordinary circumstances, this newspaper would advocate for the city to forgive the $185,000 loan the nonprofit took out to build the exhibit hall. After all, the loan is for a building that the city owns (the CCNC leases it back). But the city simply cannot afford to do so at this time, so the recent agreement seems like the next best plan.

But that’s not where this story ends. In order for the center to maintain its viability, the public must continue to support it. Residents can do that by signing up for its programs—camps, classes, tours, etc. Those offerings will soon be found in a CARD catalog. Ultimately, it’s participation by the public that will buoy this resource highlighting the jewel of Chico—beautiful Bidwell Park.