Letter to the Times: Don’t defund Prairie Park Nature Center

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Note: The Lawrence Times runs opinion columns and letters to the Times written by community members with varying perspectives on local issues. These pieces do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Times staff.

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Lawrence City Commissioners, 

Prairie Park Nature Center is a wonderful educational opportunity for all members of our community, young and old, and has been an important resource for informing others about our environment for more than 20 years. I remember going there with my Girl Scout troop, my brothers’ Boy Scout troops, school field trips, and hikes with my family and friends all throughout my childhood. Not only would it be unfavorable for the community to defund this important nature center, but also for the animals that are protected by the nature center staff. Not to mention the staff that would be out of their jobs if the center were defunded. 

Our tax dollars should go towards services that would benefit everyone in the community, not toward additional decorations for West Lawrence. The LPD already received $19.5 million for their extravagant new building in the wealthiest part of town within the past few years. The city also recently commissioned a sculpture that was paid for by $340,000 worth of community members’ tax dollars. This is especially frustrating as the public voted no on the nearly $20 million dollar infrastructure for the LPD in the first place, and we are still spending money on this expensive development instead of using those tax dollars to maintain the beloved nature center. When the community already doesn’t get a say in how our tax dollars are spent, it is furthering the attack on every resident to defund the Prairie Park Nature Center. 

It’s simply classist to funnel tax dollars toward a $340,000 sculpture in front of an already overfunded LPD brand new building in the richest part of town, while disadvantaging the community members that live near the less wealthy parts of town surrounding the Prairie Park Nature Center. The community cannot benefit much from looking at a sculpture. However, what we can benefit from is free, well-protected hiking trails and educational services about nature and the environment, along with affordable outdoor educational and recreational opportunities. 

The $337,000 (page 114) that it would take to uphold the beloved nature center is some of the most well spent money for our community, since the center offers educational information and services such as archery lessons, nature camps, birthday parties, geocaching classes, canoeing/kayaking, and much more. This center also draws in families who potentially would move to Lawrence. It is not in the community’s interest in the slightest to shut down this center that has been a staple for the Lawrence community since 1999. The priorities of the Lawrence City Commission should be to benefit the community, which would be done by keeping free/affordable services such as the Prairie Park Nature Center, and not using our tax dollars for decorations added to the already extremely costly LPD funds. 

I along with many other community members are disappointed and frustrated by the idea of shutting down the nature center, and I hope you all take into consideration the well-being and interests of the community when making budget cut decisions. 

Thank you for your time and consideration of community members’ feedback before making decisions that will impact everyone in Lawrence. 

— Marlowe Kastens (she/her), Lawrence

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