With tough budget decisions looming for the city of Seattle, concern is growing that the Discovery Park Visitor Center could be at risk of closure.
The Visitor Center, officially known as the Discovery Park Environmental Learning Center, could be closed and the staff laid off as early as July based on Parks and Recreation scenarios for addressing the budget shortfalls.
The director of Seattle Parks and Recreation, Tim Gallagher, announced his resignation this week in part due to his frustration over the budget cuts facing his department. The department faces $10 million in cuts for 2011.
That could mean the termination of programs at Discovery Park, including classes for school groups and the public, Nature Day Camp, and habitat restoration programs.
Jeff Rahlmann, a Docent volunteer at Discovery Park says: In this time of tough budget decisions, people should know that the Discovery Park ELC is cost-effective. The paid Naturalists are supplemented by over 50 volunteer docent naturalists who in 2009 donated 1,974 hours. Park naturalists and docents teach programs for toddlers, preschoolers, and public school students as well as the general public and families. They also lead work parties for habitat restoration volunteers. Under their supervision, families and students in 2009 donated 3,536 hours to stewardship and restoration in the park.
Rahlmann warns that closing the center will cost money in the long run. He says the damage and deterioration that occur in an unsupervised park will be costly to repair and restore and that staff and volunteers provide a presence that serves safety, maintenance, and educational purposes.
There is a public hearing on the 2011 City of Seattle budget set for Tuesday, May 4 at North Seattle Community College with sign in for testimony starting at 5p.m. The meeting starts at 5:30p.m. in the cafeteria.