City of Southlake to assume management and operation of the Bob Jones Nature Center and Preserve

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The Bob Jones Nature Center and Preserve in Southlake will transition to become a city-managed operation after Feb. 6. The nature center spans 758 acres and is found at 355 E. Bob Jones Road, Southlake.

A nonprofit group, the Bob Jones Nature Center Organization, has managed the programs and operations at the nature center since it entered into an agreement with the city in 2012, BJNCO board President Debra Edmondson said. Featured programming includes preschool classes, homeschool activities, lecture series and workshops and camps.

Per the agreement, the city provides $100,000 each year to help the Bob Jones Nature Center Organization fund its programs and operations, Edmondson said. Meanwhile, the organization has raised approximately $1.1 million in private donations from 2012 to 2018.

The agreement with the city was up for renewal in early 2018, and it included a request for an additional $20,000 per year, Southlake Mayor Laura Hill said in an email. City Council approved the contract without granting the request for additional funds, choosing to wait until a management study by an independent consultant was completed.

City staff presented the completed study results and community survey responses during a Nov. 6 City Council work session. The presentation sparked discussions among council members regarding how the operational model and agreement can be improved as the city continues to provide more than $100,000—including maintenance and capital improvement project costs—year over year.

The facility is not reaching its full potential, Hill said during the work session.

One of the challenges faced at the nature center is getting community members involved, Council Member Shawn McCaskill said during the same work session. McCaskill—along with Council Member Christopher Archer—also sits on the BJNCO board of directors.

“That’s what we’ve struggled with for the two years that I’ve been involved: How do we drive more people to visit the nature center?” McCaskill said.

As a result of these discussions BJNCO submitted a letter to the city offering its resignation from its role in managing the operations, and the city accepted, Edmondson said.

The goal is to make the transition without affecting nature center visitors, Hill said in the email.

“Currently, city staff, and the current BJNCO board and its employees are working hard to ensure a seamless transition that meets the needs of all our Nature Center visitors,” she said.

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Renee Yan
Renee Yan graduated May 2017 from the University of Texas in Arlington with a degree in journalism, joining Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in July.
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