A campaign to keep the open has taken off after members of the Friends of Trailside Museum mobilized a letter-writing campaign and encouraged supporters to sign an online petition which has grown to include over 1,100 signatures.
And at Wednesday night's county budget hearing held in Somers, there was "tremendous public suppport" for the 74-year-old museum, according to Tom Cohn, member of the board of directors of the Friends organization. "It's a promising environment," he said. "Our curator spoke and he was very well-received. It speaks to how many people care about keeping it open."
Though county officials said the nature centers " Cohn said that isn't true when it comes to the Trailside.
In a Nov. 21 letter from the board of the Friends organization to the county executive and board of legislators, Cohn cited annual revenues of $78,000 produced by the museum and attributed over half of the 2010 paid gate revenues of $98,850 at to Trailside programs.
The museum's operating budget is approximately $100,000 annually.
"We're talking about a $20-25,000 spread in expenses vs. revenues," said Cohn. "We hope, given the public outcry, the board of legislators makes the right decision."
In an interview with Patch last week, Majority leader Peter Harckham (D-Katonah) told Patch the BOL would be looking at ways to keep nature centers open during their review of the county executive's budget, and he encouraged locals to attend the budget hearings to express their support.
The Lewisboro Ledger reports that the BOL is still determining the effects of the proposed cuts and found that in addition to education, the museum curators handle some communications with state and federal agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Environmental Protection.
In addition, Harckham told the Ledger, eliminating the curator positions would cause a reduction in state grant funding. “It has far-reaching implications that need to be looked at,” he said.
Cohn agreed, noting the curator's role in conservation and stewardship of the park's land, outside of his museum responsibilities. He also said in his letter that the museum cuts would impact the quality of life for county residents through the loss of programs.
"In 2011 alone, Trailside museum staff presented 40 weekend programs, and taught 110 school programs for 3,590 students of all ages. The popular and award winning Children’s Summer Nature Camp reached 207 youngsters. The singular Conservationists-in-Training program provides a unique summer experience that engages teenagers. Most programs were sold out with many applicants turned away. There are 206,000 visitors to WPRR per year who also rely on access to TNM and its programs," Cohn wrote.
And if the position isn't added back into the county budget?
"We are exploring public-private partnerships and will talk about stepping in to offer funding to keep the museum open," Cohn said. "We are one of the oldest Friends organizations in the county system—and we want to build up a war chest and ensure another 70 years of programs there."
The last county budget hearing is scheduled for Dec. 6 at the board of legislators office at 148 Martine Ave. in White Plains.