UPDATE: DNR tries to ease concerns over Mackenzie Center - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

UPDATE: DNR tries to ease concerns over changes at Mackenzie Center

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources(DNR) says the winning bidder for the contract to operate the MacKenzie Center in Poynette will have a robust K-12 environmental education program.

The DNR made that clarification in a news release posted on the department's web site, in response to concerns from local citizens about the future of the center's environmental education program under new management.

You can read the full news release here.

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Wisconsin kids have been coming to the MacKenzie Environmental Education Center in Poynette for decades. It's 250 acres of land provide an outdoor classroom.

Earlier this month, the Department of Natural Resources announced it wants the MacKenzie Center run through a private/public partnership. Their contract with the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, which helps manage the center, is set to end in August.

"The environmental education component of MacKenzie will continue as the MacKenzie Center moves forward," Kurt Thiede, DNR land division administrator said during a Natural Resources Board meeting Wednesday. The DNR plans to expand education on hunting, fishing and trapping. Costs also played a part in the decision, according to a press release from the DNR dated February 12.

More than 40 people signed up to speak on the issue at the board meeting. "The Poynette trip in its current format is the kind of experience that makes public education competitive with private education," Amy Gallenberg said. Her daughter Carly, who's in 5th grade, also spoke about her experience at the MacKenzie Center.

Some argued any change could put the learning experience in jeopardy. "I doubt a private firm could serve 16,000 school children with a $280,000 budget -- I doubt they would continue to do so," Jackie Woodruff said.

The proposal's timeline was also questioned. "The current education team and Friends of MacKenzie center must be allowed to continue environmental education and outdoor skills programs uninterrupted until such a time as a property master plan is completed and approved by the Natural Resources Board," Poynette resident Derek Duane said.

The DNR says an outline of what they're looking for in management will be released around March 1. Representatives from the National Wildlife Federation and Friends of MacKenzie both expressed disappointment in the decision.

 

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