Before adopting the county’s 2013 budget, the board of commissioners searched for ways to make more cuts in order to restore funding to items previously on the chopping block — the Cochran Mill Nature Center being one of those, as well as its sister center, the Chattahooche Nature Center in Roswell.
Both received the $100,000 the budget proposal had previously eliminated.
Cochran Mill Nature Center Executive Director Bobbie Laminack said a large majority of the money coming from the county is put toward environmental education for school children.
Field trips to the nature center are a major source of traffic, and Laminack said when a school trip comes, the staff devotes the day to the children by only hosting one class at a time. During peak times in the year, such as the spring, the center will host two classes in a day, but they won’t overlap.
And classes come in nearly every day, not just from Fulton Couty schools but Fayette, Coweta and Douglas counties, as well as city of Atlanta schools.
For that to occur, Laminack needs her full staff of three full-time employees and one part-time employee.
“If I had lost the funding, I would have had to make a cut,” she said. “When you’re that low on people to begin with — it would hurt us tremendously.”
The nature center also hosts summer camps for kindergarten through middle-school-age children.
Laminack said 75 percent of what the nature center does is the environmental education programming, which she said is vital for children.
“Today, most of our children are inside. They are in playing video games,” she said. “When they get off the bus here, they are just so wide-eyed and amazed at all the things that are here.”
Funding also goes toward rehabbing orphaned wildlife, such as birds and squirrels.
The animals that are orphaned are fed and raised, all at a cost, until they can be released back into the wild.
Seriously injured wildlife must be transported to the vet or the Southeastern Raptor Rehabilitation Center at Auburn University, which is also costly.
Laminack said last year, 240 animals came through the center.
Had the funding not been restored, Laminack said the wildlife program would have had to be cut entirely.
The county funding is also used for maintenance and repairs at the center.
“There would have been a lot of repairs that would have gone undone at the center,” she said.
She gave her thanks to District 7 Commissioner Bill Edwards, who represents South Fulton, and District 3 Commissioner Liz Hausmann, whose district houses the Chattahoochee center, for keeping nature a priority.
“Mr. Edwards has been wonderful as far as support and Commissioner Hausmann,” she said. “Both were vocal that Chattahoochee and Cochran stay in the budget.”