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Opinion: SPLOST VIII will fund important projects at Elachee Nature Science Center
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The Elachee Nature Science Center was started by Becky Geiger, Rosemary (Johnson) Dodd, Sissy Lawson, Ellen Odegaard and Julia Cromartie with the goal of preserving the local environment for future generations. The main building is pictured here in February 2019. - photo by Scott Rogers

The Times readers know that on Tuesday, Nov. 5, Hall County residents will vote on the SPLOST VIII referendum. When approved by the voters, this will extend for six years a 1% sales tax, which is already being collected but is set to expire soon. This tax is different in that we can know in advance how the money collected will be spent.

The Chicopee Woods Park Commission and Elachee Nature Science Center are among the projects designated to receive funding. A $1 million allocation will help Elachee construct an additional classroom to be used for school and public programs, furthering its nature-based education program. It will also provide a permanent home for Elachee’s 50-seat Starlab planetarium.

The need is great. Elachee faces competing priorities for its public exhibit space 50 out of 52 weeks each year. Of the more than 70,000 people Elachee serves each year through its education programs and its 8-mile hiking trail network in the Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve, more than 20,000 are Pre-K-12th grade students. 

Its astronomy program is consistently one of the most requested. However, when in use during school or camp programs, the large Starlab fills the nature center’s exhibit hall, which excludes public visitor uses. This is not good.

SPLOST funds may be used for capital improvements only. In fact, the 1988 SPLOST financed the original Elachee museum and classroom building. Since those were built, Elachee has added facilities through private fundraising and has continued to fund upkeep and maintenance of all structures as it will with this one to be financed through the SPLOST VIII.

We can be sure that this will be money well spent. It deserves our support.

John Girardeau

Gainesville

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