Friends of Gulf Branch Nature Center Officers



President

Duke Banks


Vice President

Marx Sterne


Secretary

Joan Sterne


Treasurer

Steve Young


Other Board Members

Burt Bostwick

Ed Demoney

Colt Gregory

Toby Hayman

Sandy Newton

Doug Richards





Contact us:


Friends of Gulf Branch Nature Center

3608 N. Military Road

Arlington, VA  22207


friendsofgbnc@gmail.com

About Us



Friends of Gulf Branch Nature Center (“FoGBNC”), a 501 (c) 3 non-profit

FoGBNC Purpose: FoGBNC's sole purpose is to raise funds to support and improve and operations at Gulf Branch Nature Center for the benefit of the entire community.  All of its fund-raising activities have been conducted at or through the GBNC facility.   Except for reimbursements for special events and promotional materials, all of the funds raised have been or will be used to support activities, events and facilities at GBNC.


Background: FoGBNC was established in 2009 in response to a county recommendation to close the facility.  FoGBNC raised and contributed $10,000 to the General Fund to keep the facility open, and continued to subsidize weekend operating hours for several years until the operating hours were restored in subsequent budgets.  GBNC lost its director (Denise Chauvette) to the budget cutting and this position has never been restored.  GBNC's annual budget is approximately $300,000 per year, partially offset by fees charged for programs.  GBNC contributes approximately $18,000 per year to the General Fund from fees charged for summer camp.

FoGBNC Contributions:  In addition to the aforementioned $10,000 contribution, FoGBNC has donated hundreds of volunteer hours, thousands of dollars (for the owl house, Christmas train, critter cams, etc.) and hundreds of thousands of dollars of 'goodwill' through its annual parties, publicity (e.g., calendars, t-shirts, etc.) and web pages.

Other Support: Old Glebe Civic Association was instrumental in obtaining a small parks grant to establish GBNC's 'pollinator garden', at Military Road and 36th Road, across from GBNC.  GBNC regularly receives help from volunteer groups (e.g., Boy Scouts, invasive species removal, etc.).

DPR/DES Support: The GBNC building is owned by DES, and operated by DPR.  In recent years, DES has upgraded the roof, parking lot, a/c system and the drainage and sump pumps at the building.  DPR has made no significant upgrades to staffing, programs, activities or physical amenities.  GBNC, as well as the Long Branch Nature Center continue to be the 'poor step-children' of all the DPR programs.

DPR Budget: DPR spends a large portion of its capital and operating budgets on high-profile, big ticket items such as swimming pools, athletic fields, tennis courts, dog parks, etc. that benefit a relatively small and select group of constituents.  In the past, some of its bond funds have been diverted for dubious programs and activities, such as the Artisphere.  Relatively little (almost nothing!) has been dedicated to improve and upgrade its nature centers.

FoGBNC Plans: As the need for everyday operating funds for GBNC has diminished, in beginning in 2015 FoGBNC embarked on a plan to significantly upgrade the Native American Room at Gulf Branch.  FoGBNC engaged a well-known and regarded design firm (Howard-Revis) to provide a concept plan and design for the Native American Room.  Approximately $20,000 and many person-hours have been dedicated to this effort.  FoGBNC and Howard-Revis have met with DPR and DES multiple times to coordinate these efforts and receive at least tacit approval for proceeding.

In October 2015, FoGBNC and Howard-Revis met with DPR and DES representatives to obtain a 'green light' for proceeding with plans to upgrade the Native American Room.  An additional 'object' of the meeting was to obtain a commitment/letter of intent from DPR which would enable FoGBNC to (finally!) begin formal fund-raising for the project.  DPR responded that they would proceed to provide a letter of intent if FoGBNC would commit to raising an additional $300,000 for project costs.  The FoGBNC Board approved this commitment, and it was communicated to DPR

Fast forward to (March/April) 2016, and FoGBNC had received no further commitments from DPR.  Following an 'Information Memorandum' distributed to the Arlington County Board of Directors, DPR responded with additional information.  We were advised that a 'Letter of Intent' was forthcoming, hopefully to be received by the time of GBNC's 50th Anniversary Party in June 2016.  At the same time, DPR staff engaged FoGBNC in discussions regarding a revised 'Memorandum of Understanding', which apparently had been under discussion among DPR staff and the County Attorney's office for some time.  (Note: The County Attorney's office and the County's Risk Manager apparently has been urging DPR and other County Departments to either establish or update their Memoranda of Understanding with volunteer and tenant groups and activities.)  We were told at the time that the Letter of Intent and the updated Memorandum of Understanding could proceed on 'separate tracks', that they weren't 'inter-dependent'.

FoGBNC met several times with DPR staff, as well as staff from the County Attorney's office and the Risk Manager to discuss the proposed terms of the MOU.  But no agreement could be reached because it would require surrendering our fiduciary independence which would jeopardize our 501(c)3 IRS status by making FoGBNC a 'captive' of DPR.  Unfortunately, some County staff seem to think of FoGBNC as a 'tenant' activity such as a yoga class or sports team which operate primarily for the benefit of their constituents.  This ignores the basic fact that GBNC and the community it serves are the sole constituents of FoGBNC.

GoBNC Future: Notwithstanding these setbacks, FoGBNC will continue to provide similar support for potential future projects at GBNC such as: trail markers, complete upgrade of 'critter' cages and facilities, a dedicated audio/video room, much-needed storage reorganization, etc.  We seek no less than a modern and 'showcase' exhibit to demonstrate the County's commitment to its parks and natural resources. Likewise, since it was not possible to reach an agreement concerning fund raising for upgrading the Native American Room, we will advocate that this project be considered in future CIPs given that it will advance the County’s equity initiative.

Piggy backing on a 2021 letter writing effort where several civic associations from across Arlington wrote to the County Board supported the idea of upgrading nature centers through the CIP, we will continue to advocate for CIP funding for all nature centers. In past years all of DPR’s facilities such as recreation centers, and community centers have been upgraded and/or rebuilt using primarily bond funds. There have been no equivalent investments to upgrade nature centers in recent years to show the county’s commitment to its parks and natural resources.

We do this in the spirit of a collaborative partnership as echoed by Director Jane Rudolph during the 2016 Gulf Branch Symposium commemorating Gulf Branch’s 50th anniversary where she lauded the efforts of FoGBNC.

Our mission in 2022 is to revitalize this partnership that has been dormant in recent years primarily because of COVID.

March 2022

History


VIDEOS of our 50th Anniversary Events
Thanks to the video producers at the Arlington Career Center for making these great videos:

Gulf Branch Nature Center’s 50th Birthday Party
Gulf Branch Nature Center Symposium- June 2, 2016


Read Former Board President Burt Bostwick's message on our change in direction in 2018.


Read the Washington Post article about the 2009 threat to the nature center that led to the creation of the Friends of Gulf Branch Nature Center.