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Center an invaluable resource

August 22, 2002

John Scandura

I applaud your editorial that called for sparing the Shipley

Nature Center from budget cuts so that it can remain open.

The nature center is truly an invaluable educational and

recreational resource. Each year 40,000 visitors of all ages enjoy

the trails, habitats and wetland that provide a natural refuge from

suburban development. Countless school children, including my own,

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take field trips to the nature center to learn about the plants,

wildlife and habitats in their natural setting.

In their column Natural Perspectives, professors Vic Leipzig and

Louann Murray talked about the nature center's popular naturalist,

"Ranger Dave" Winkler. He has been an enthusiastic presence for 26

years and thousands of children have delighted in learning from him

about the nature center's biota.

What is less known to the public is that over the years Winkler

has saved the city substantial amounts of money by using volunteers

to perform essential repair, maintenance and upkeep work. Winkler's

dedication and resourcefulness have kept the nature center viable

even when the city was unable to provide adequate funds. It would be

sad that such a dedicated individual would lose his job because of

budget cuts.

A few years ago pine beetles destroyed the nature center's pine

trees while tamarisk and passion vine overtook many areas. The City's

Environmental Board recognized that the habitats destroyed by the

invasive pests and vegetation needed to be restored.

The board began working with the ranger Winkler, city staff,

council members and college professors on ways revitalize the nature

center and ensure its long-term viability. An outgrowth of the

board's efforts was the Friends of the Nature Center, which was

formed to seek community support and private financial assistance to

augment city funding. This group has done much over the past year to

help revitalize the nature center and is working hard to ensure its

continued operation. The efforts of the environmental board and the

Friends of the Shipley Nature Center will be for naught should the

nature center close.

I support our city officials' desire to be fiscally responsible

and to avoid deficits, yet budget decisions must not result in the

loss of assets like the nature center, which are important to our

high quality of life.

Very few cities have such an invaluable and irreplaceable resource

as the nature center. I believe

that reductions need to be found elsewhere in our city's budget so

that the Shipley Nature Center can remain as an educational and

recreational resource for our community.

* JOHN SCANDURA is a Huntington Beach resident. To contribute to

"Sounding Off" fax us at (714) 965-7174 or e-mail us at

hbindy@latimes.com.

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