Why Walla Walla’s Pioneer Park Aviary Could Close By End Of August

Jul 31, 2014

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.

A Mandarin Duck at the Pioneer Park Aviary. Ducks like these sometimes live inside the damaged enclosure.
Credit Joanna Lanning / Friends of Pioneer Park Aviary

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.

Indian Peacock at the Pioneer Park Aviary.
Credit Joanna Lanning / Friends of Pioneer Park Aviary

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.

A Lady Amherst's Pheasant at the aviary. Amherst's Pheasants are native to China and Burma, and can also be found wild in England.
Credit Joanna Lanning / Friends of Pioneer Park Aviary

“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.

Enclosures at the Pioneer Park Aviary can have more than just birds, like this rabbit who lives with them.
Credit Joanna Lanning / Friends of Pioneer Park Aviary

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