Evanston aldermen this month are scheduled to act on a plan to keep the city’s Ecology Center operating with help from a private environmental group.

The proposal won unanimous backing from the City Council’s Human Services committee this week.

Under the plan, the Evanston Environmental Association, which has raised $1.2 million for the center over the past 36 years, will help with programs designed to eliminate the center’s operating deficit by next year and then work to raise funds to cover half of the anticipated capital improvement costs for the building between 2014 and 2026.

In return the city is agreeing to maintain staffing and programs at the center and to carry out a long-deferred plan to rebuild the greenhouse at the center.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz had proposed closing the Ecology Center two years ago as part of a round of budget cuts, but that plan was rejected by aldermen in the face of strong opposition from supporters of the center’s programs.

The environmental group says the center, at 2024 McCormick Blvd., gets about 25,000 visitors a year and conducts more than 100 environmental programs attended by 4,000 people.

It also hosts summer camps, an annual green living festival and provides meeting space for community groups.

The center’s operating deficit was reduced to less than $40,000 in 2011 from more than $200,000 in 2008.

The EEA proposes several steps to eliminate the remaining deficit including increasing use of the center by scout groups, doing more promotion through e-mail newsletters and finding five corporate sponsors at $5,000 a year.

The group’s contribution to capital projects would amount to nearly $4,000 a year from 2014 through 2026.

Related document

The ecology center plan

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Ecology center one of the only city services not in the hole.

    Closing the Ecology center was another idea, that was not thought out, yes Wally is  correct to try to lower cost.  But lets face it he has NOT dealt effective with the major departments and cutting their costs down, but picked on small departments with limit budgets.

    Why is the operating budget lower for the ecology center, I believe at this point the manager position is not being filled, thus the remaining staff is handling the work.( $100,000 savings )

    Lets face it, if the ecology center operation was compared to some other give away programs it would show a very high percent of its operating budget covered, versus other programs where close to 100% subsidize exist from the taxpayers.

  2. Wine bar, Trader Joe’s parking lot or ecology center?

    What kind of priorities does our city government have?

    They seem to feel that they should act as a bank.

    Meanwhile, the intended function of a city government is totally neglected.  Threatening to shut recreation centers, libraries, and ecology centers?

    I want to see my money used to finance these things.   Use my money to provide services, not to lend out or gift to council members'  favorite businesses.

    Let the banks lend out money to wine bars. Let the private investors finance their own parking lots!

  3. Close the Ecology Center and

    Close the Ecology Center and lease the space to Starbucks.  Each of them serves middle and upper-middle class whites who can drive there.  And the staff can continue to sit around the fireplace and drink coffee at Starbucks' rates.  When we can't afford library sites, who can justify this drain?

    Programs and attendance patterns don't touch what that building, site, and programs should address.  And the staff has historically been lazy, unsupervised, and without initiative.

    1. Ecology center is a gem

      The ecology center is an Evanston gem.   I absolutely support my taxes to be used for this site. 

      The classes provide top notch educational services , and the staff helps residents organize the community gardens around the city.  When I've taken my family there, I"ve found the staff to be helpful, committed, and knowledgeable.

      The one place the ecology center should do a better job is renting out it's facility- which it looks like they are going to attempt.  I have personally rented out this space for a school party, and it is fabulous.  If more people would take advantage of using this space, the ecology center could be a money generator for this city.


      1. Do we ever get rid of anything government creates ?

        With government everything is 'sacred'—once created it cannot be undone.

        Build a arts, ecology, museum and on and on and it cannot be discontinued.

        Have a non-descript house or building that is falling apart—it can't be torn-down or even painted since it is 'a national treasurer' and has to be declared historical.

        Establish a government position, township government, program, etc.  and it can't be done away with or civilization will fall.

        Have a government job that makes no sense or is duplicated ? Can't do away with it.  If we had a railroad in Evanston, the Council would require an employee be on-board to stoke the coal—in case we ever have to revert.

        Have a library branch that makes no sense in an age with cars, bikes, streets to walk on and public transportation, and people will howl.

        Had a school closed many years ago ?  It must now be replaced no matter how demographics and the law [integration] have changed.

        No wonder we have so many government problems and a budget that keeps getting worse.

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