Walla Walla’s Pioneer Park is known not for its trees or pond, but for its birds - dozens of them in cages or in large pond enclosures. For more than 30 years, it’s held a collection of peacocks, ducks, pheasants, and more. Now there’s a chance it could close at the end of August.
Damage to an enclosure housing ducks and other waterfowl allowed predators to attack some of the birds. Repairing that netting would cost about $375,000. The city has $190,000 earmarked to repair the enclosure.
That means the Friends of Pioneer Park Aviary, a nonprofit group dedicated to operating that feature of the park, needs to raise $185,000. Chair Shane Laib, says the Friends of the Aviary have more than $100,000 in pledges. $40,000 of that is from a foundation that wants to remain anonymous.
If they don’t raise that money by the end of August the aviary will close. That would mean selling or giving away the birds – about 170 of them.
Friends of Pioneer Park Aviary have raised operating money for the aviary since 2011, when the city of Walla Walla defunded it. They’ve raised between $55,000 and $60,000 annually to operate the aviary.
Shane Laib calls it a “jewel” in Walla Walla’s crown.
“It provides experience for families that don’t cost anything. We don’t charge admission,” says Laib. “People use the walking paths. They use it to stay mobile.”
Walla Walla Parks and Recreation director Jim Dumont would like the aviary to stay open. He knows the funding is limited, but says it brings a lot to the community.
“It’s an educational institution,” says Dumont. “It provides anyone in the public a chance to see Northwest waterfowl as well as a few endangered species of pheasants. It’s peaceful, it’s calming. All those things will be missed.”
Friends of Pioneer Park Aviary will still need to raise annual operating funds after the structure is repaired, as they have for the last three years.
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