Council ready to give $88K to help Rock Ledge Ranch

       It was the showdown for Rock Ledge Ranch at City Council last week. And the Westside historic site appears to have dodged the bullet.
       Responding to appeals from the ranch's volunteer Living History Association (LHA), council tentatively allocated $88,000 Nov. 4 from the 2011 budget to the 1880s-style working ranch just north of Pleasant Valley.

With some of the parts of the just-butchered hog on the table, volunteer Ray Sutherland (far left) explains how completely frontier families used the farm animals they slaughtered during the "Everything but the Oink" event at Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site Nov. 6.
Westside Pioneer photo

Ranch manager Andy Morris, also an experienced smithy, works in the Rock Ledge Ranch blacksmith shop last June during the 2010 opening day.
Westside Pioneer photo

       It means that supporters may have to work just as hard as last year to make up the balance, but LHA President Ron Wright is OK with that. “Our foundation does have some money held back as reserve for 2011 so we should be OK,” he said afterward. “Our events and the great people that come through the gate paying admission will carry us forward as will membership renewals and donations.”
       Jan Martin, the council member who lives closest to Rock Ledge, said there was a favorable consensus among the elected body. “It's very obvious how hard they [the LHA) worked this last year to keep the ranch open,” she said. “They started many wonderful programs.”
       For her own part, she added, “I have a philosophy. If the city owns these properties [such as Rock Ledge] we need to partner with these groups that are supporting them.”
       Fortunately for the ranch, the city budget is far less tight than it was a year ago, when the original city manager recommendation was to shut the ranch down at the end of 2009, and council eventually agreed on the small compromise of funding the ranch's first three months. Pointing to marked increases in sales tax proceeds (the city's main revenue source), “we're about $10 million ahead of where we were last time,” Martin said.
       Also a year ago, Wright was leading the LHA charge against the ranch closure possibility, inspired by the slogan “not now, not ever.” The group was able to take the first-quarter city money (totaling about $57,000), add it to a longstanding LHA trust fund and an anonymous $35,000 gift and numerous smaller donations, then mix in a few money-making programs/events to keep the ranch's 2010 schedule intact. On the other side of the ledger, the LHA and ranch staff looked for spending reductions (such as closing on Sundays and reducing temporary staff).
       Wright had been hopeful the city was impressed, until a month ago when the city manager recommended a zero allocation for 2011. So Wright and the LHA went to work again, developing a 2011 “Plan of Operation” to present to council that included graphs showing increases in ranch events, attendance, LHA memberships and volunteer hours during 2010.
       The city's $88,000 stipend for 2011 may seem like a lot more than the $57,000 for 2010. But Wright pointed out that this year, the trust fund is gone and no big anonymous gift has appeared, so “everything is remaining the same more or less.”
       But at least the situation doesn't appear as bleak as it did when the city manager's zero recommendation came out in October. Wright made this clear in a triumphant e-mail to ranch supporters, which reads in part: “I thank you all. It is you, each and everyone of you, that have made this happen. Now, it is time once again to roll up our sleeves and prepare for 2011.”

Westside Pioneer article