They spoke out on behalf of the Madagascar hissing cockroach and Edgar the crow, and their voices were heard.
Eight kids who pleaded with Lawrence city commissioners not to close the Prairie Park Nature Center were honored by the Lawrence Kiwanis Club on Thursday afternoon.
“We owe them a huge debt of gratitude for coming out and voicing their opinions,” Prairie Park Nature Education Supervisor Marty Birrell said.
The Lawrence City Commission was considering closing the nature center because of more than $1 million in budget cuts coming from the state, but after overwhelming community support, commissioners voted to keep the center open.
That support included comments from eight youngsters at the Feb. 3 commission meeting — Eva Bradley, Kimball Coleman, Aiden Deitz, Devlin Grewal, Anna-Maya and Gus Hachmeister and Stefan and Vera Petrovic.
The Kiwanis Club recognized the children for their civic involvement with the group’s Pot of Gold project. Each child received a certificate and the group presented an actual pot of 100 gold $1 coins to the nature center in their honor.
“I know I was pretty timid growing up, and it would’ve been hard to speak in that venue in front of all those people,” Kiwanis Club member Bill Myers said. “I know it may be a little early to start getting them involved in civic activities, but I think the younger the better.”
Seven-year-old Eva Bradley said she wasn’t nervous at all speaking before the commission.
“I’m very, very glad that they decided to keep it open,” the Raintree Montessori first-grader said. “The Prairie Park Nature Center is really important, and it’s a good place to be.”
“I’m really happy that they’re staying open,” Sunset Hill third-grader Aiden Deitz said while holding and petting a ferret.
Birrell said she and her staff were touched by the kids’ show of support. “It’s really wonderful that they have ownership of this place,” she said. “We want them to have a personal relationship with the animals and the environment because that’s how they learn respect for it, and obviously the message came home to these children.”