A plan worth visiting

If the staff at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center has its way, a new Visitor Center complete with large classrooms, sustainable energy savings and more could be built within the next few years. Executive Director Larry Dolphin says the new center would be funded through community donations and state grants. We commend such an effort as a positive step for the city.

With a relatively low tax base, relatively high poverty rate and a bevy of projects competing for funding, there’s no reason to believe a majority of Austin taxpayers would willingly part with their hard-earned dollars to pay for a new nature center building via more taxes. That’s why it’s smart and necessary for nature center staff to pursue other sources of revenue.

Dolphin said earlier this week that the nature center would pursue state grants to help pay for a new visitor center. He further said at a Parks, Recreation and Forestry Board meeting that the Friends of the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center, the nature center’s board, would also plan a community-wide fundraising campaign to pay for the building.

Nature Center staff lay out a reasonable argument for a new building. The current visitor center is aging, facing maintenance problems, and if something happened to the building, city officials couldn’t rebuild it because of flight path restrictions from the Austin Municipal Airport.

Yet that is no reason to expect taxpayers to foot the bill for a new project.

If some Austin residents choose to donate to a project everyone can benefit from, then good for them for being so generous. And good for the nature center to get such help from the community, as the land is one of Austin’s most treasured outdoor attractions. So long as people aren’t forced to support projects like this with more taxes, everyone can benefit once the new visitor center is complete.

We look forward to hearing more good news about the visitor center project, and we wish nature center staff luck in finding and securing grants and donations.

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