A group of children attending a camp, standing outdoors in a row, with two of our educators

Important Info Regarding Programming @ LSNC

November 26, 2019 UPDATE

This past year, we began to perform land surveys and other site prep for a long-awaited Nature Playscape on our Leslie Science & Nature Center site. This playscape is part of a Master Plan we completed in 2015-16, including input from many stakeholders regarding what they wish to see in the future of LSNC. During the survey for this playscape, our contractor found an unnatural depression in the woods, with an unnatural looking material at the base of the depression. This discovery led to an initial round of soil testing, led by the City of Ann Arbor, on the property in June, 2019. This initial testing gave us enough information to know we had to swiftly move all programs off of our site, until further investigation and testing could occur.

On June 22, 2019, the LSNC staff made calls to many partners and collaborators, and within 24 hours moved a birthday party, a scout program, and the entirety of our 900 person 11-week summer camp program to a new site. The flexibility, fortitude, and passion shown by our staff at that time cannot be understated. Your support throughout the years has allowed us to retain staff who are dedicated to the organization, devoted to the community we serve and able to think on their feet during a crisis. Summer camp was a great success at Buhr Park in Ann Arbor, while preschool programs, birthday and scout programs moved to Olson Park. Our longstanding relationship with the City of Ann Arbor Parks Department, as well as the support from our merged and larger organization, was and continues to be critical as we navigate our site closure. In the end, we only lost $32,000 in revenue from a $250,000 camp program, as we offered full refunds to any family who needed to cancel due to our site change. While we had some families join us from the waitlists, the last-minute nature of this change meant we ended up with open spots in camp, where we normally run at 100% capacity.

As of November 2019, we continue to function completely off site. We have four different city parks where we run programs, however we do not have adequate space for our larger field trips or overnight programming. Unfortunately, due to these unmet space needs we continue to see a shortage of our normal programs. In September and October alone, we have a loss of $20,000 a month in regular reliable revenue. We continue to explore opportunities with county parks, the school district and invest in potential new spaces as this site closure continues. Our focus is on expanding partnerships outside of our site, exploring new ways to re-envision our work and make certain our programs are able to move forward and serve our community and ensure the organization is sustainable well into the future, regardless of our site.

Currently, we do not have a firm timeline on final testing, a plan for remediation or when we might return to the site. The land and buildings of LSNC are owned by the City of Ann Arbor, and we are working together to move beyond this challenging situation. However, with the involvement of the state EGLE department, it takes time. Because of this, we are asking if you have any additional capacity to support us this year, to provide scholarships to underwrite our programs for the schools, or to invest in our staff as they explore and secure additional spaces and partnership program opportunities. With your support, we know we can build up our programs to offset the current losses. The types of partnerships and programs we are currently running are innovative and have great potential to help our organization continue to grow well beyond whatever future the site may have in store. 

The past four months have demonstrated over and over that we are far more than our site. What makes our programs truly amazing is our incredible staff, our inspiring wildlife and the unique environmental education philosophy we utilize in every program.

 

June 24, 2019

Dear friends and supporters of the Leslie Science & Nature Center and Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum,

The safety of our families, campers, volunteers and employees are our top priority.

We are writing today to inform you about several programming changes made at the Leslie Science & Nature Center. Beginning this week, programming has been moved offsite following the results of soil testing conducted at a construction site for the planned Nature Playscape, as well as testing in nearby areas. The results indicated elevated levels of heavy metals and other contaminants.

Out of an abundance of caution we have decided to relocate programming effective immediately.

Summer Campers will receive a specific email regarding the changes to summer camp this evening. We are excited to have a beautiful outdoor space to utilize, and bring our incredible environmental programs for the remainder of the year.

Other programs, including preschool, birthday parties, scouts, and others will hear from us in the next 24 hours regarding options for your program.

At the discretion of the City of Ann Arbor the Leslie grounds will remain open. However, temporary fencing has been installed to prevent access to the areas tested and signage will be installed to inform park users to avoid these restricted areas. A second round of tests is planned by the City of Ann Arbor and we will update you when the results of those tests are received and understood. Those results are expected within the next couple of weeks.

The original soil samples were collected on May 30, 2019. On June 20, 2019 the city received draft soil test results, which indicated elevated levels of arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, zinc, selenium, silver and mercury in addition to some semi and volatile organic compounds. Soil samples taken near the playscape construction area indicated elevated levels of arsenic and lead.

We understand relocating our programming can be an inconvenience, and we appreciate the support and understanding from our community while we await the results of further environmental testing by the City of Ann Arbor and a plan to remediate the area.

We remain committed to ensuring our campers have an amazing experience at an alternate outdoor location and we encourage individuals with further questions to visit the city’s website here.