City turns over Wesselman Park management to private community group

By Louis La Plante

Wesselman Nature Society was named the new managers and operators of the Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve and Howell Wetlands this week.

The new contract awarded to the nature society reflects cost-saving measures from the city government, says Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel, after state property tax legislation, which was passed in early March, require Evansville to cut $3.2 million from the budget by 2010.

"Public-private partnerships, like the one we have just formed with the Wesselman Nature Society, will help the city keep costs down and improve programming and operations," says Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel.

The three-year contract begins on Jan. 1, 2009, as Wesselman Nature Society will be given $170,000 the first year for facility management, $155,000 in 2010, and $140,000 in 2011.

City officials still expect to submit a $850,000 capital improvement to the Evansville City Council for 2009 for renovations of the nature center, but any additional costs will be covered by the Nature Society.

The city will pay the three-member staff at the nature center, who will be managed by the Wesselman Nature Society, through the end of the year. Beginning in 2009, the nature society will make staffing decisions.