Hello Friends of Gulf Branch Nature supporters!
My name is Duke Banks, and I’m the new President of Friends of Gulf Branch Nature Center (Friends of GBNC).
During the COVID pandemic, the organization has been quiet. But now we are ready to reengage, and my mission is to revitalize the Friends of GBNC and to advocate not only for Gulf Branch Nature Center, but also for all nature centers.
OUR FIRST CHALLENGE: We must respond promptly to the County Manager’s proposed fiscal year 2023 budget (which will be approved on April 23). In it, the manager proposes to cut nature center hours from the pre-pandemic level of 6 days a week, to 3 days a week—a 50% reduction in the hours the center is open to the public.
Why are these cuts being proposed?
1. A Department of Parks & Recreation (DPR) directive has been issued—for security reasons—that require DPR facilities to have two staffers present before a facility may be opened. Previously, only one staffer was required to open a facility.
2. During COVID, nature center staff pivoted toward virtual-only programs. When schools reopened, staff provided programs at the schools, given that field trips to the nature centers were not yet feasible.
Friends of GBNC understands the need for safety, and we laud nature center staff members on their flexibility in continuing to provide programs during COVID—both to the public and schools.
However, these emergency initiatives don’t justify closing Arlington’s remaining nature centers three days a week. Our nature centers anchor the creative new programming, providing essential facilities like exhibits, restrooms and shelter (during storms) and serving as a physical focal point that makes nature accessible to everyone, young or old, rich or poor.
We also disagree with DPR Director Jane Rudolph’s recent response to a question about center hours: She intends to use nature center programming as a basis for determining public access to center facilities. Many folks visit nature centers without attending a program and thus would be denied access to the nature centers at a time when the public’s visits to our parks have significantly increased during COVID.
With our highly urbanized environment and the pandemic-related fallout, children need the respite of enjoying nature now more than ever. APS and private-school field trips to the nature centers should be restarted ASAP. Our kids should not be “welcomed” with a “Closed” sign on the door.
In a $1.4 billion budget, funding to add a few more temporary employees, enabling the centers to reopen to the public at pre-pandemic levels, is NOT a major expense.
Though the Park and Recreation and the Forestry and Natural Resources Commissions have expressed concern about the reduction in hours at the nature centers, the manager and County Board must hear from the public if we want nature centers’ public hours to be restored to normal, pre-pandemic levels.
You can make a difference:
Please send an email to the County Board at firstname.lastname@example.org and County Manager at email@example.com. Tell them how important it is to keep our nature centers accessible to the public and how disappointed you are by the proposed cuts to the nature centers’ public hours. Ask that they budget accordingly to keep the nature centers opened 6 days a week. Use the template below to cut and paste or customize your own message:
Dear Chair Cristol and members of the County Board,
Please reject the proposed budget’s plan to cut our nature centers’ public hours from 6 days down to just 3 days per week. Our nature centers anchor not only programming but also provide essential facilities like exhibits, restrooms and shelter (during storms) that make nature accessible to everyone, young or old, rich or poor.
Given Arlington’s increasing urbanization, we need more access to nature, not less. Getting back to normal after a punishing pandemic must include restoring the public’s access to Arlington’s nature centers. Please provide the necessary funding to maintain the pre-pandemic 6-days-a-week level of service.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
[Insert Your Name Here]
Many thanks for your support and keep an eye out for more news and information from Friends of GBNC coming soon!
In the meantime, explore our webpage to meet our Board of Directors, and learn about our history. Don’t forget to see the videos of our 50th anniversary celebration in 2016, along with a symposium.
Duke Banks, President
Friends of Gulf Branch Nature Center
Welcome to the Friends of Gulf Branch Nature Center (“FoGBNC”) web site. FoGBNC is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose mission is to enhance, through public and private resources, support for the Gulf Branch Nature Center in Arlington, Virginia.
Copyright 2022. FoGBNC. All Rights Reserved.