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Down Economy is to Blame for New Nature Center Hours

Due to a decrease in funding, the Springfield Conservation Nature Center will have new and decreased hours of operation. KSMU’s Matt Evans has the story.

The down economy has affected nearly every business and agency in the country, and the Missouri Department of Conservation is no exception. Because of the economy, the department is cutting costs by $7.5 million by holding 173 positions vacant and closing 13 office facilities by July 1, 2011. The scheduling changes at Springfield’s Nature Center are a part of that plan.

“We made every effort and have done everything we can within our power to keep open as much as possible.”

That’s Linda Chorice, the Nature Center manager. The new schedule comes with changes to the hours the building and trails will be open. Starting in March, the building will be closed on Mondays and on Sunday mornings. Also, the Nature Center trails will be closed on Sunday mornings. Nothing will change regarding the center’s Tuesday through Saturday operating hours.

Chorice says the Springfield Nature Center was one of the more fortunate nature centers across the state.

“Because our visitation is so high, we were given some flexibility that other conservation department nature centers across the state were not given. They were told to close two days a week and they will be closed on Sundays and Mondays.”

Last year about a quarter of a million people walked the trails at the nature center and over 100,000 visited the building.

The reason for the cutbacks is because the revenues from the conservation sales tax and the hunting and fishing permit sales have not kept up with inflation. With the cutback in hours, the nature center in Springfield has also lost four positions.

“It’s been very hard on us to change anything that we’re doing, but we have to make it sustainable.”

Chorice says she’s not sure whether the hours will be changed back once the economy rebounds.

For KSMU News, I’m Matt Evans.