Staff Editorial: Nature center renovation needs re-evaluation


Noah Orloff

Senior Bryan Huynh volunteers with the National Honor Society Oct. 19 at the Westwood Hills Nature Center's Halloween party. The St. Louis Park City Council considers using bonds to fund the Nature Center renovations.

This month, the city of St. Louis Park is exploring the use of bonds to obtain $22 million in order to work toward several projects and renovations. The Echo Editorial Board sees this as a misdirected use of funds.

The majority of the money will go toward renovating the Westwood Hills Nature Center, where the plan includes a large expansion of the main building as well as the implementation of four new exhibits regarding various ecosystems. It will also make the area more accessible for the elderly and young families. Other projects include the installation of fiber internet connection, roadwork on Cedar Lake Road and city funding for the light rail, according to the Sun Sailor.

The Echo Editorial Board believes the construction at the nature center is counterintuitive and not worth the hefty price. The nature center’s focus should be on protecting wildlife and preserving animals’ habitats, not procuring larger audiences and increasing the commercialization of the center. The Council should examine the environmental impact on the construction. Factors such as noise pollution, tree destruction and habitat elimination could damage the surrounding area.

Additionally, as the city pursues these expensive projects, they may have to raise property taxes to recoup some of the costs, according to the Sun Sailor. This would make the neighborhood less accessible, especially to the young families that the renovation and the nature center are targeting.

The Editorial Board believes the money should be used to address other more important issues in our community, such as climate action and housing affordability. However, we support the improvements to internet accessibility that fiber networks would provide and the increased ease of transportation that the light rail would bring to St. Louis Park.

The City Council should re-evaluate the importance of the nature center and its value in the coming years. Although the Council may improve the appeal of the neighborhood, it would also limit who can experience these advantages. The construction would also only assist privileged people without helping those who really need aid.

The other projects are more valuable, for despite raising house prices and construction, in the end, they would help the community to have more access to the internet and transportation.

The board believes City Council should look at the bigger picture, and they should assess if this construction is really in the best interests of the city as a whole, especially considering the underprivileged communities who would not benefit from the nature center improvements. The city cannot provide everything and should not prioritize luxuries, such as nature center renovations.

We also implore students and community members to reach out to their city counselors. We are the future of St. Louis Park, and our opinions as students should be highly valued in decisions such as these. Additionally, if students can see the faults in this cost, our city counselors should have recognized these problems much earlier, and they should have already addressed them.

The city should not be wasting money on luxuries that will only help privileged communities while ignoring those struggling and their issues. They should consider using the money to improve house accessibility, climate change action and other issues that truly affect everyone in St. Louis Park.