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The Effie Yeaw Nature Center, a 77-acre natural habitat preserve and learning center in Carmichael, faces possible closure.
The preserve is making the transition from being run by Sacramento County to being run by nonprofit organization, the American River Natural History Association (ARNHA), which currently is the center's second largest contributor, behind the county. However, the state budget may not cover expenses for the transition period, which could take years, park employees say. If the center does not get the funding it needs while the ARNHA prepares to take total responsibility, it may have to close its doors indefinitely.
Effie Yeaw was a kindergarten teacher who led exploratory trips for students in the early 1960's. The nature center named for her is well loved by patrons all over Northern California.
It is one of the largest natural habitats along the American River Parkway and offers hundreds of programs year-round to people of all ages.
Effie Yeaw offers schoolchildren in a five-county area field trips, hikes, wild animal encounters and education on environmental sciences and Native American culture. The center has programs dedicated to the subject matter of each grade.
Its main building houses dozens of live animals unable to survive in the wild and a 2004 addition provides a community meeting place and indoor classroom.
Effie Yeaw prides itself on being the most accessible natural habitat preserve in the Sacramento area, with guaranteed wildlife sightings, easy trails and a paved area that extends into the preserve for disabled people.
Director Marilee Flannery has been at Effie Yeaw for 16 years.
She called it "a huge economic draw to the Carmichael area. It also naturally filters the American River and the air in our area."
Local support has kept the nature center afloat. Community volunteers provide daily maintenance, program support and fund-raising activities. This help has been crucial; 10 employees have been laid off, either entirely or partially until the spring due to funding and the center has been forced to reduce its hours of operation.
Staffers have received help and advice from workers at county and city facilities who have faced the same difficult times.
"We recently received a call from Kathy Fleming, director of Fairytale Town, saying she loves the center and wants to help," said Flannery," and the Sacramento Zoo has offered to take our housed animals in case of closing."
Both of these facilities are privately owned, and receive limited funds from the state and county. This is the status Effie Yeaw wants.
The nature center seeks supporters, donations and volunteers, in hopes of keeping the doors open long enough for the ARNHA to make the nature center and preserve a permanent feature of the Sacramento area.
For more information and a schedule of programs for the Effie Yeaw Nature Center, visit effieyeaw.org.