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San Diego EcoCenter Survival in Doubt

Audio

Aired 4/19/09

State budget cuts are also threatening the future of San Diego's EcoCenter. That program provides free environmental education to thousands of students. KPBS Reporter Ed Joyce has more.

The San Diego Environmental Foundation has used its EcoCenter to teach 4th through 7th grade students about alternative fuel vehicles for the past four years.

The center's director, Judy Bishop, says more than 10,000 students each year take an environmental field trip to the EcoCenter.
Bishop: Teachers have told us that this is the best field trip they have ever seen. The kids walk away, yesterday one kid said, what did you learn today? He says "this is a cool place, can I come back?" And then the next kid was "I learned that biodiesel can be made out of soybeans.
But fewer students may take that trip in the future.

Bishop says continued funding from the state of California and other support for the program is drying up. 

And now, the EcoCenter is losing about one-half of the rent-free space it uses.
Bishop: And the owners want to lease that space understandably so. So they're hoping to get a leaser in here that will bring in revenues and help pay the mortgage. The ideal thing for the EcoCenter right now would be to possibly find the same amount of space or larger space to enhance what we do by adding the components of global warming and the bigger issues of renewable energy to incorporate the opportunity to possibly be funded.
She says teaching students about other environmental issues might also bring the EcoCenter more funding.
Bishop: Because our message is so narrow, renewable alternative fuels, we often times are bypassed by funders and the response is please include the bigger issues.
Bishop says a state grant provides enough funding to continue the field trips through next fall. 

But she says future state grant money is in doubt as California wrestles with a record budget deficit.

Ed Joyce, KPBS News.
 

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