By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
TISHOMINGO – Administrators at Crow’s Neck Environmental Education Center say the 530-acre preserve at Bay Springs Lake could be forced to close next year without a federal appropriation.
Executive Director Cynthia Harrell urged Crow’s Neck supporters by Facebook and by e-mail to help generate support for the residential natural science center, which she said serves about 4,500 schoolchildren per year, along with business, social and church groups that rent its facilities.
“Crow’s Neck’s current operating funds will disappear on 7/1/2011,” Harrell wrote. “We are collecting letters to deliver to our congressional delegation, seeking a federal funding solution to keep the center open.”
Harrell’s notice was prompted by a letter from Northeast Mississippi Community College (NEMCC) President Johnny Allen to Tombigbee River Valley Water Management District informing the district that the college would not be a partner with Crow’s Neck after June 30, 2011. NEMCC has overseen and furnished funding for Crow’s Neck operations since 2001.
Allen told the Daily Journal that the decision to withdraw from the Crow’s Neck partnership is not final.
“If we’re not going to be (a partner), we have to give at least a year’s notice,” he said. The letter, he added, was sent to fulfill that contractual obligation just in case.
“We’re looking everywhere for a partner to help us keep it open,” Allen said.
According to Harrell, Crow’s Neck, which was opened in 1993, earns about one-third of its roughly $500,000 annual budget from the groups that use it, gets another third from grants that cover special projects, and receives the rest from agencies: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (on whose land it sits), the Tombigbee River Valley Water Management District (whose funding is reserved for maintenance) and NEMCC, which furnishes additional operating funds.
Northeast, like most state-funded agencies, is experiencing cutbacks of its own.
“Dr. Allen has always been a strong supporter of Crow’s Neck … but faced with hard choices, running an outdoor natural science center is admittedly a little outside their core mission,” Harrell said.