News Release: From: City of Evansville, Mayors Office City Contracts with Wesselman Nature Society to Manage Wesselman Woods (EVANSVILLE, IN) – The Evansville Department of Parks and Recreation Board of Park Commissioners today approved an agreement which will allow the City to contract with the Wesselman Nature Society to manage and operate Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve (including the Nature Center and Recycling Center) and Howell Wetlands. The decision to contract with the Wesselman Nature Society is a cost saving measure that will also help streamline City government. This type of partnership is especially important now due to the revenue losses that will be felt by the City because of the property tax legislation that was passed in Indianapolis last week. “Public-private partnerships, like the one we have just formed with the Wesselman Nature Society, will help the City keep costs down and improve programming and operations,” said Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel. “We know that the Nature Society will be a good steward and manager of Wesselman Woods and the Howell Wetlands.” The City will continue to pay operational costs as budgeted through December 31, 2008. Starting January 1, 2009, Wesselman Nature Society will be compensated by the City for managing the facilities through the end of the contract on December 31, 2011. In 2009, the City will pay the Nature Society $170,000; in 2010, the payment will be $155,000; and in the final year of the contract, the amount of the compensation will be $140,000. The City will submit $850,000 in capital improvement to the Evansville City Council for 2009 for renovations of the Nature Center. Any cost above that amount will have to be covered by the Nature Society. “The Wesselman Nature Society is very excited about this opportunity to continue working toward our mission of preserving natural resources in the Evansville area, providing environmental education and promoting the enjoyment of these treasures,” said Vic Chamness, President of the Wesselman Nature Society. “We welcome interested community members to join us as we work towards the renovation of the Nature Preserve facility and Wesselman Woods, and for a new educational facility at Howell Wetlands.” Currently, there are three City employees at Wesselman Nature Center. They will be paid by the City through December 31, 2008, but they will serve under the direction of the Nature Society. As of January 1, 2009, the Nature Society will have sole discretion over staffing including whether to put those three City employees on its payroll. Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve has been designated a National Natural Landmark and a State Nature Preserve. 200 acres of virgin bottomland hardwood forest are home to more than 300 species of wildflowers, 150 species of birds and numerous mammals. There are nearly six miles of walking trails through the Preserve. Howell Wetlands is one of only five urban wetlands parks in Indiana. It features 23 acres of marshland as well as wildlife like muskrats, beavers, herons, wood ducks, geese and deer. The park has walking trails and boardwalks through the site.