After initial confusion with $, city OK with Rock Ledge opening plan

       After a discussion at the Feb. 9 City Council meeting that was triggered by an article in the Westside Pioneer, the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site remains on track to stay open this year… but it's far from finished with fundraising.
       The issue came up just after a presentation by City Parks Director Paul Butcher regarding positive staff and volunteer efforts to raise money so that the city's four community centers (including the one on the Westside) won't have to close after March 31 (see story, Page 4).
       City Councilmember Scott Hente asked, “On a somewhat related issue, I read in the Westside Pioneer last week… it appears that Rock Ledge Ranch has found a way to stay open for the rest of the year. Could you talk to that for a second?”
       Butcher, who explained later that he had been provided information from staff but had not come to the meeting prepared to give a presentation on ranch fundraising, responded with information that left the impression the ranch had already exceeded its donation target of $136,000.
       He was contacted shortly afterward by Ron Wright, president of Rock Ledge's volunteer Living History Association (LHA), who said no, a lot of fundraising is still needed. He added a concern that as result of the meeting, potential donors would now look elsewhere, thinking Rock Ledge was no longer in need.
       “I'd love to say we've raised $136,000, but we haven't,” Wright said.
       As of Feb. 10, he said the LHA has raised $37,060 in private donations since a fund drive started in mid-December. Another $57,600, including previous donations, has steadily accumulated in a ranch “gift trust account” over the past 32 years. This brings the total cash in hand to $94,660, which is $41,340 short of the LHA's $136,000 goal; however, last year the city-owned working ranch earned $45,000 in gate receipts, so an equivalent result this year would cover the remaining costs, Wright explained.
       Feeling confident with these numbers, the LHA and ranch manager Andy Morris decided to go forward, and have prepared a calendar for 2010 that will include a Memorial Day-to-Labor Day season and nearly all of the traditional annual events. Some performers have already been lined up, including local singer/songwriter Chuck Pyle for a fundraising show May 22 and 49 Special (a San Francisco-based band that won the 2009 Rockygrass band competition) for Fiddles, Vittles & Vino July 25.
       Stories about the ranch's plans as well as this year's calendar listings, appeared in the Feb. 4 Westside Pioneer. The main headline was: “Rock Ledge Ranch to stay open in 2010.”
       The confusion for city staff, as it turned out from talking to Butcher, came from having counted all the ranch money (including this year's anticipated gate receipts) under the category of “donations.”
       He later apologized to Wright for the mix-up, but had another concern, which was whether the ranch truly is financially sound enough at this point to stay open. However, after studying the numbers, he told the Pioneer he felt “pretty comfortable” that the LHA plan appears workable and he does not plan to stand in the way.

Westside Pioneer article