Funding Issues Could Mean the End of the Pioneer Park Aviary

For more than three years now, the fate of the Pioneer Park Aviary has been unknown due to funding issues.

A local Walla Walla organization, Friends of Pioneer Park Aviary, is trying to keep the city's aviary open, that after the Walla Walla City Council voted to cut the aviary's funding two weeks ago.

"It was a tough vote, I was extremely upset that night and I left the chambers and went home and couldn't sleep," said Shane Laib of Friends. "It was quite a passion for a lot of people and it was very hurtful to the citizens."

The large enclosure housing more than 170 birds from differnt species costs nearly $60,000 per year to maintain, a bill that up until 2010 was paid for fully by the city since the aviary's opening in the 80's.

Walla Walla's general fund budget is $25,000,000 and funding for the aviary comes out of that budget.

The budget also covers basic city services like police, fire, streets and public works, the city said it has to go in a matter of priority and with what it has to pay for, the aviary is lower on the list.

"We have a limited amount of resources and we have to apply those in a way that addresses the most important needs and that's how it shakes out," said Deputy City Manager Tim McCarty. "That's been the case from the beginning of the issues a few years ago."

Friends is hoping to get enough funding to sustain the aviary this year so that they can raise enough capital dollars to improve the facility.

The group has $10,000 on hand now and hopes it will be able to continue raising money to sustain the facility without much help from the city in the future.

If the aviary is forced to close down, the birds would be distributed to other aviarys in the country and the structure would be torn down, something Friends hopes will never become a reality.

"It's just a passion of mine to keep this treasure alive for the next generations," said Laib. "We always hear the story, 'there's nothing to do in Walla Walla,' well this is something to do for kids, adults and different people."

At a city council meeting tonight, the Friends will propose a counter plan to the closure vote in hopes the council will agree to allocate funding originally put aside for this year so it can raise money to rebuild and eventually take over the full operation. 

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