The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 9, 2013

Officials to meet in Galena to work out nature center deal

By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
Globe Staff Writer

GALENA, Kan. — Officials with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism plan to meet with Galena city leaders Monday to finalize a formal agreement that will see the state take over operation of the Southeast Kansas Nature Center.

The meeting, slated for 11 a.m. at the nature center, will allow Mike Rader, wildlife education coordinator, and other staff to meet with Mayor Dale Oglesby, city council members who serve on the Schermerhorn Park Committee, and members of the nature center’s board of directors.

They will iron out the details “of who does what,” said Linda Phipps, who currently heads the nature center.

“We just have to determine what the city wants the state to be responsible for, and vice versa, and get it on paper,” she said.

The city currently maintains Schermerhorn Park, while the nature center’s board and volunteers are responsible for the nature center itself.

Rader announced last week that the department has been approved to take over operations of the nature center. It will be the second the department will operate; the other is in Junction City.

No state nature centers exist in Southeast Kansas. Biologists have cited the area as having unique topography and ecosystems, and being home to as many as 30 percent of the state’s threatened and endangered species.

Phipps spearheaded the drive to create the center 10 years ago and continues in retirement to serve as its volunteer director.

She first proposed that the state agency assume operations in 2010. Although looked upon favorably by then-Secretary Mike Hayden, budget shortfalls and a reduction in the agency’s staff made it unfeasible.

The state began advertising Tuesday for a director; the deadline to apply is March 15.

The city and the state agency, as well as Phipps, see the change as positive for Galena, the nature center and the state department.

“I’m just excited to get this finished up,” she said.

Piece of the Ozarks

“Kansas only has one little piece of the Ozarks, and it’s here,” Jim Triplett, a longtime professor of biology at Pittsburg State University, said in reference to the area around Schermerhorn Park and the Southeast Kansas Nature Center. “It’s a tremendous asset, very fragile and susceptible to intrusion. This is an area that needs to be preserved and protected in perpetuity.”