Rock Ledge LHA to fight City Hall
Volunteer friends group dismayed at $0 for ranch in preliminary city budget

       After a year of volunteering an average of 100 hours a month to help keep the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site from closing, Ron Wright was hoping for a lighter load in 2011.

Ron Wright (left) with ranch manager Andy Morris at this year's Earth Day apple-tree planting. Wright was honored for his volunteering.
Westside Pioneer photo

A donation bottle featuring deer antlers that Wright built himself.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Right now, that doesn't seem likely.
       The president of the ranch's Living History Association (LHA) expressed dismay this week at seeing a preliminary city 2011 budget that shows no funding for the city- owned ranch/interpretive site.
       “It's a sad thing,” he said. “We did what they asked. We raised the money to keep things going. We've been aggressive all year. We added new programs, we closed on Sundays [because of traditionally lower attendance those days], we added weddings and business conferences, we cut down the hours of part-time people, we got percentages back from vendors, we sold sponsorships for different events.”
       The preliminary budget was prepared by Interim City Manager Steve Cox.
       Wright said he plans to appeal to City Council in the coming weeks, during designated budget discussions that are open to the public. The Pleasant Valley resident isn't asking the financially strapped city to subsidize the entire 230-acre facility the way it did in previous years. But he can't help but notice that the city has a little more money than last year, allowing funds to water parks and medians (unlike last year's budget). He had a comment on that: “They want to make the city nice again. They'll get visitors here and they'll have no place to go - because the city has closed all these neat things people came here for.”
       What Wright would appreciate is the same amount of help as this year, when the city paid $36,000 to cover the first three months and also funded the ranch manager's position.
       As it stands right now, the LHA expects to go into 2011 with a carryover of $61,600; meanwhile, the total anticipated cost to keep the ranch operational is $247,000. Based on historical levels of gate receipts and other ranch income, Wright said about $140,000 would have to be raised. A similar need was foreseen this year, but efforts were aided by a $62,000 gift trust account, which is now depleted, and a large anonymous donation that can't necessarily be counted on again.
       “I don't know how much more we can do,” Wright said. “You can't keep going back to the membership and say, 'You've joined up, now we want to get into your checkbook again.' ”

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