With loss of major funds, center expected to close
For the last 18 years, the Corps of Discovery Welcome Center has been living the dream in northern Cedar County.
But it would appear that dream is about to burst. On Friday, Feb. 1, the center’s board of directors will meet — possibly for the last time.
“At Friday’s meeting, we will most likely decide to formally close the Welcome Center,” said Frederick Pinkelman of Wynot. “We lost a major funding source and our director resigned at the end of last year.”
It’s a decision that will not be made lightly and will come with many regrets, Pinkelman said.
Pinkelman is a board member for the welcome center and was an instrumental cog in putting the wheels in motion for the facility years ago.
When the Nebraska Department of Roads designated construction of the rest area on the Nebraska bluffs south of Yankton on Highway 81, a large group of area residents raised the funds to build a visitors center with restrooms and meeting space. They were sure if they built it, people would come — and they were right.
The center has been a popular stopping point for travelers along Highway 81 not only as a rest stop, but also as a gathering place for presentations, local vendor sales, nature hiking trails and seasonal activities for families.
But the center’s major funding source, the Lewis & Clark Natural Resources District, recently told board members that it would not be able to continue its financial and in-kind support. NRD representatives had decided the center did not fit in their focus on conservation projects, so they withdrew their support.
“Over the years, the NRD has been a very, faithful supporter of the center,” Pinkelman said.
The NRD has helped with the maintenance of the facility and has kept the hiking trails weed-free. This past year, it also replaced windows at the center.
In-kind contributions came in the form of a board member from the NRD staff who also did the books for the facility.
The budget for the center was about $55,000 with one of the major expenses the wages for a part-time director. Maintaining the funding was often times a challenge, but the board always managed to make it work.
Fundraising activities and events such as the Taste of Christmas in November, bluebird workshops, winter shopping blitzes and a family fun day in the fall — all held at the center — brought in some dollars. For a fee, area business sponsors could have their information and brochures displayed in a kiosk at the center.
Unless another source of funding can be identified or other resources come forward with assistance, the facility will lock its doors, Pinkelman said.
“It will certainly be a loss to the local artisans who displayed their wares and the panoramic view from the bluffs of the Missouri National Recreational River will be viewed by fewer travelers,” Pinkelman said.