Greenwich Council needs to step in to secure the future of Maryon Wilson Animal Park, its leader Denise Hyland has been told by park users.
The running of the park was handed to to a charity after the council announced plans to withdraw funding four years ago.
But Maryon Wilson Animal Park Ltd is struggling to raise the £100,000 per year it needs to keep the park going – leading to the Friends of Maryon and Maryon Wilson Parks to ask Greenwich to consider taking it back into council ownership.
In an open letter to Cllr Hyland, the Friends group proposes the council takes on the costs of running the animal centre, with MWAP Ltd acting as an independent fundraising body to help pay for animal feed and improvements to their acommodation.
Greenwich taking back the park would also end the issue of part of a public park being leased out to a third party for 30 years, the Friends group says.
The letter reads:
For the Friends group, the best solution is for the council to own and run the Animal Park, and for the charity, MWAP Ltd., to act as fund-raisers to help pay for the animal feed and improve the animals’ living conditions and care. If the charity becomes successful then they could also help pay for the council staff but not line manage them.
The charity could concentrate on running events and developing an animal education service for schools and young people. The Parks and Open Spaces staff can then continue to run the Animal Park on a day to day basis, maintaining the established high standards of Health and Safety needed for managing the combination of animals and child visitors.
Such an arrangement would also avoid any unwelcome issues with leasing the land and losing significant sections of a public park from the public domain.
The suggestion above seems to us to be something that respects everybody and is a much more sensible, realistic, and sustainable financial arrangement than the current plans.
It would be fantastic for the new council administration to agree a new solution that secures the Animal Park’s long term future.
We ask that you take the Animal Park back into the council’s long term care whilst continuing to work with the dedicated people at MWAP Ltd. to improve the park’s animal welfare and educational facilities.
The council’s 2010 budget savings document put the park’s annual running costs at £43,000. But it’s understood that this was massively under-estimated, as it didn’t include staffing costs as well as other outgoings such as paying for park rangers to run tours.
While some sponsorship has been found from developer Durkan and supermarket Sainsbury’s, making up the shortfall has been a tall order for the charity.
Regular events at the park include its annual Easter egg hunt, which takes place this year on 29 March.