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Friday, October 7, 2022
ArlingtonAdvocate for nature centers isn't giving up

Advocate for nature centers isn’t giving up

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Look up “indefatigable” in an online dictionary, and a photo of Duke Banks might pop up.

Recently given the brushoff – politely but for the second time – by the County Board, Banks is not stopping in his efforts to restore hours that were cut at Arlington’s two local nature centers during the pandemic.

Banks pressed his case at the May 24 meeting of the Arlington Park and Recreation Commission (where he once served as a member), urging the body to affirm its past support for restoring the hours that were cut.

“It is a low-cost item,” Banks said of his request, noting the cost (no more than $100,000) would not have made any discernible impact on an annual budget now topping $1.4 billion.

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Both the Park and Recreation Commission and the Forestry and Natural Resources Commission – where Banks also spoke – in the past have gone on record restoring hours at Gulf Branch and Long Branch nature centers. Pre-pandemic, those centers were open six days per week; after an extensive closure at the onset of COVID, they reopened with a smaller weekly footprint.

Speaking to County Board members earlier in May, Banks quoted staff as projecting the cost of restoring the hours at $25,000. At the parks-commission meeting, he clarified that the stated cost related only to reopening one additional day. Full resumption of hours would cost more.

Regardless, said Banks (president of Friends of Gulf Branch), failing to add funding to restore hours marked a “missed opportunity.”
At the earlier County Board meeting, chair Katie Cristol said adding back extra hours would impact the ability of nature-center staff to get out more into the community.

“It’s not as straightforward as ‘more dollars equal more hours,’” Cristol said then.

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