The directors of the Dunwoody Nature Center plan over the next five years to expand the center’s programs, add employees and begin raising money to build a new building for the facility, board members said recently.

The center’s board of directors adopted a new five-year strategic plan for the facility on Jan. 20 that board members hope “will allow us to take the nature center to the next level, to keep moving it forward,” said Monroe Brock, head of the center’s marketing committee. The goal, he said, was “to be a premier environmental center.”

Board president Anne Hicks said leaders of the 22-acre facility hope to use “cutting-edge technology to provide a quality facility for all ages in a natural environment.”

The board adopted the five-year plan, in part, to attract corporate and non-profit contributors willing to make donations toward improvements at the nature center.

“It’s a tool. You can show donors that you have goals,” Hicks said. “It’s also our vision. This helps us stay focused.”

The board approved its five-year plan as the city is developing its own long-term park plan. The timing was “coincidental,” Ellis said, but the board members said they plan for the center to continue providing programs in Dunwoody’s parks.

“The [Dunwoody] City Council has been great,” Hicks said. “We see them as close partners … Both the city and the nature center see this as a public, private partnership.”

The board’s five-year plan calls for improvements to nature center operations in four major areas: expanding the center’s reach; improving its organizational infrastructure; ensuring its long-term financial sustainability; and providing facilities and grounds to meet the group’s needs and enhance the public experience.

Hicks, Brock and board member Su Ellis, discussing the plan at a Dunwoody coffee shop recently, said the center also intends to try to attract more members in the coming years. The center’s membership has fallen to 400 to 500 dues-paying members, they said, from a high of about 600 members in 2007. The group plans a fundraising party and auction in May, Ellis said.

The center offers programs in a city park and the city provides maintenance for the grounds, the board members said. The center raises its operating money from memberships, fees and grants. “We often wonder if there’s a misconception that the city pays for any of our operations,” Ellis said. “Right now, it’s fees and grants.”

The center is expanding its programs to include more for adults, the board members said. Center directors also plan to expand the hours of the summer camps it offers for children to keep programs operating until 5 p.m., instead of closing at 2 p.m., they said. The board also is considering adding programs to be offered at Brook Run Park “if there’s room,” Hicks said.

The board plans to add two part-time positions at the center, the board members said. One will be a bookkeeper and the other a programmer.

Although plans for a new building at the center are still in the early stages, board members intend to begin raising money for the project within the next five years. How much will they need?

“At least a million,” Hick said. “We haven’t come up with a number, but it’ll be at least a million.”

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.