EDITORIAL: Crow’s Neck

Disturbing but not surprising news that the Crow’s Neck Environmental Education Center in a remote cove on Bay Springs Lake will close June 30 for lack of funding underscores the costs of reductions and appropriations as they cascade over agencies and programs.
Northeast Mississippi Community College President Johnny Allen made the announcement that the Booneville-based college can no longer afford to support Crow’s Neck as part of its program.
The 530-acre reservation is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on 6,600-acre Bay Springs Lake. Since 2001, Northeast has been fiscally responsible for Crow’s Neck and handles all the day-to-day operations.
Crow’s Neck annually hosts thousands of school children attending camps and outings, all educational, and many others use the facilities for special camps, conferences and retreats.
The center is leased to the Tombigbee River Valley Water Management District, headquartered in Tupelo. The TRVWMD has an agreement with NMCC, and has provided $1 million for the center’s operation.
The college has been investing $250,000 to $300,000 per year in Crow’s Neck, Executive Director Cynthia Harrell said Wednesday. The rest of the center’s annual $550,000-$600,000 budget comes from program fees, grants and other special income.
Steve Wallace, TRVWMD executive director, said he and other officials visited with the congressional delegation about three weeks ago in Washington, but there was no promise of financial aid. Sens. Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran, plus U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee, had staff members at a Jan. 5 meeting where the situation was presented to dozens of Crow’s Neck supporters and constituents at the center.
Wicker spokesman Rick Curtsinger said Wednesday the senator’s staff in Washington and in Mississippi continues work to find grant or other funding that could sustain the center, but none is immediately available.
“The senator is aware of the situation,” Curtsinger said.
Chris Gallegos, spokesman for Cochran, said Cochran is “aware of the financial straits facing the Crow’s Neck center. He hopes private foundations or other organizations will keep the center open to continue its environmental education mission.”
Private-sector consultant Glenn McCullough Jr., a former TVA chairman and former mayor of Tupelo, is searching for non-governmental funding.
Some environmental education centers across the nation are sustained by corporate and foundation sponsorships, or by endowments. Even though the business climate is not at its peak, an investment in sustaining Crow’s Neck could help ensure that school children, many from poor districts whose financial struggles are widely reported, could continue to benefit from the center’s programs.

NEMS Daily Journal

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