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Save the WNC Nature Center



Late Tuesday afternoon, we learned that the City of Asheville has proposed to close the WNC Nature Center, along with a number of other city resources and programs, to balance the city budget, which will be short $5.7 million if recent bills introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly are passed. Information on the list of bill names, sponsors, descriptions and considerations about how the bills may impact city residents, can be found on the City’s website, along with the proposed expenditure reductions. The City of Asheville is hard-pressed to find solutions to balance the budget if these bills are passed.

In 2011, the Center adopted a new 2020 Vision  that outlines a strategic business plan as well as a site plan for improvements and additions to the Nature Center. This plan includes initiatives to alleviate demands on the City of Asheville budget to operate the Center and to reconfigure the Center into a public/private partnership. The beauty of this plan is that we have already started thanks to our supporters with exhibit updates, corporate sponsorships, and a Wild Vision Society. And now, we need your help to spread the word as we work to protect one of our city and region’s most important assets.

Here are some ways you can help:

  • Contact Asheville City Council and County and State officials to share your concerns about closing of the WNC Nature Center
  • Make a tax-deductible donation to the Friends of the WNC Nature Center
  • Educate yourself and others about the 2020 Vision plan for the Center
  • Stay informed by following the Friends on social media – Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube and share this information with your friends and contacts

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is the WNC Nature Center going to close?

We will work tirelessly to ensure that the Center does not close. We promise.

The Western North Carolina Nature Center is lucky to have an entire nonprofit organization that is committed to raising money to support the mission of the Center. The Friends of the WNC Nature Center has existed since 1974 to raise money to create awareness and provide financial resources, through fundraising and events, in support of the Nature Center. The Friends have had record numbers of members and recent fundraising accomplishments in the last 18 months and are in the process of implementing several steps within our shared plan with the WNC Nature Center, our 2020 Vision,  that will transition the Center to a public/private partnership agreement that will no longer rely so heavily on support from the City of Asheville.

The success of the 2020 Vision does depend on our visitors, volunteers, membership, corporate friends, sponsors, grantors, and our Wild Visions Society to accomplish this goal. However, we are ahead of schedule in the plan, with plans this summer to open the new playground, Arachnid Adventure, as well as two new exhibits in Appalachian Station. Watch the powerpoint presentation at the link above to learn more about what is in store for the WNC Nature Center in years to come.

Is a public/private partnership an option for the WNC Nature Center?

A public/private partnership is a viable option for the WNC Nature Center and has been investigated at length by both the Friends and the City of Asheville. As a result, the Friends and the City have been working to create a successful transition plan, better known as our 2020 Vision. Many cities across the country have had to make tough economic decisions about operating their local zoos while still providing taxpayers the services they require.  A public/private partnership is the best solution. However, zoos always rely on public funding dollars in addition to private support.

If the Center closed, what will happen to the animals? Who will care for them?

Since the Center is a member of the AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums), they would work with the appropriate taxonomic advisory group to place the collection animals in other AZA facilities.

Who proposed the idea of closing the Nature Center? Why weren’t other options explored?

We don’t know who specifically offered up this option, but City leadership offered it along with the rest of the list of other facilities.

What are the bills proposed at the General Assembly that are related to this concern?

Descriptions of the proposed bills are provided by the City of Asheville here.

What is going to happen to the membership I just purchased?

Memberships for the WNC Nature Center aren’t going anywhere. Not only will you still enjoy access for a full year from the date of purchase, you will also continue to enjoy the 50% or 100% reciprocity agreements at more than 275 zoos, aquariums, and science centers across the country. Our membership program is still an excellent deal, and we need all the members we can get to build financial support for the Center if the City of Asheville cannot afford to keep the Center open.

What about the new children’s playground and the exhibit updates slated for Summer 2013?

Construction of the new playground, Arachnid Adventure, is still underway and should open this summer on schedule. In addition, we expect to open our two newest exhibits, an improved eastern hellbender exhibit and black ant exhibit, in Appalachian Station later this summer. Funds for these projects were raised by the Friends of the WNC Nature Center and do not have any effect on city resident taxes or require any funding from the city budget.

The Playground

The new Arachnid Adventure playground will feature spider themed play elements such as climbing and crawl through webs and a new rain garden area.  The playground will also serve as a gateway to a new fully accessible natural path up to our red wolf exhibit.  Along the way, play elements such as a climb through log and themed sculpture will surprise guests.  Once at the red wolf exhibit, new unobstructed viewing areas will afford the best view possible of our highly endangered red wolf pack.  Interpretive elements will bring the story of the red wolf alive for guests.

Exhibit Updates

One area will include a new state-of-the-art modular exhibit for black ants. Variance Exhibits, an invertebrate exhibit company widely used throughout the Zoo and Aquarium industry, would fabricate this exhibit. Variance exhibits are all furnished with the needed life support systems built-in and provide an attractive, modern exhibit that can be easily moved in and out of place for maintenance and cleaning. In addition, there will be interactive elements, such as a close-up camera in the exhibit that allows visitors and schoolchildren further access into the world of these incredible arthropods.

The other addition is a nine foot long, 150-gallon aquarium exhibit capable of housing an adult hellbender. Included in the installation of the exhibit would be the chiller unit, bubble screen air flow unit, and all filtration equipment. The exhibit will expand viewing opportunities for guests for this endangered and important stream health indicator species.

What can I do to prevent the Center from closing?

There are a number of ways to get involved in preventing closure of the WNC Nature Center, but we prefer to look at it as strengthening our 2020 Vision. These include:

  • Contact City Council, County, and State officials to share your concerns about closing of the WNC Nature Center
  • Make a tax-deductible donation to the Friends of the WNC Nature Center
  • Educate yourself and others about the 2020 Vision plan for the Center
  • Stay informed by following the Friends on social media- Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube and share this information with your friends and contacts
  • Purchase or renew your membership– revenues for membership sales go to support the Center
  • Volunteer at the Center or at the Friends office
  • Provide financial support through our existing giving programs like Adopt-An-Animal or Buy-A-Brick, both of which raise money for the Center



About WNC Nature Center

The Friends of the WNC Nature Center creates awareness and provide financial resources in support of the Nature Center- Asheville’s Wildlife Park. The WNC Nature Center connects people with animals and plants of the Southern Appalachian Mountains by inspiring appreciation, nurturing understanding, and advancing conservation of the

region’s rich biodiversity.

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