Keep Prairie Park Nature Center open

City proposal to close facility is a bad idea

By Jonas Lord, Managing Editor

A staple of the Lawrence Parks and Recreation system and the community — the Prairie Park Nature Center — is poised to possibly close. 

For many, including me, this announcement came as a surprise. Why would the city propose this closure seemingly out of nowhere? What reasons do they have? The reasons are nonsensical at best and wrong-headed at worst.

In the city’s 2022-23 budget proposal, officials say that the nature center isn’t aligned with the plan of creating an “Unmistakable Lawrence.” Closing it, at an anticipated savings of $337,000, would create “a prime location for an early childhood education or childcare center, an unmet community need which has been identified.” 

So it’s clear they have plans. But, to put it bluntly, they’re also pretty dumb plans.

It’s nice that the city has expressed interest in creative space for a daycare. It really is. But, wasn’t the Prairie Park Nature Center already fulfilling needs for young children? It’s known throughout the community for hosting camps and events specifically geared toward young children. 

Now, I understand that this facility doesn’t cover all of the complicated facets of early education, but why does it have to be closed? It’s a valuable resource that teaches kids about preserving nature and respecting the Earth. Even I, a person who spends a lot of their time indoors surfing the internet, recognizes that this is an important place that teaches important things, especially in this age of hyperconnectivity.

I’m sure there are plenty of other good spots to allow for the construction of a daycare, even if they aren’t as desirable or optimal. 

Yeah, $337,000 is a lot of cash, but I believe it’s well worth it to keep this FREE educational service and resource in the community, and a lot of my fellow citizens feel the same way.

For instance, look at this petition, which, as of the writing of this, is exceeding its goal of 1,500 signatures. People are talking candidly about the regretful decision that the city commission could be making and the negative impact it could have. 

Luckily, none of this change is completely set in stone. All of this will be covered at tonight’s City Commission Meeting. If you want to do more research yourself about other aspects of the budget proposal, listen to the opinions of your fellow citizens, or are interested in attending the meeting, click on the links listed below this paragraph.

Full Budget Proposal

Register to join City Commission Zoom meeting

Lawrence Listens Survey

City Commission Meeting Info