Jun 8, 2019
by Vesta Copestakes
The Bird Rescue Center (BRC), located in Santa Rosa, is determined to turn lemons into lemonade. For much of its 43-year history, BRC has been housed on County property—property that is now being sold.
“While moving wasn’t our choice,” says Sam Marsh, Vice Chair of the organization’s Board of Directors, “it has presented us with an incredible opportunity to create a center that really supports the work we do.”
That, as it turns out, is an understatement. BRC’s current facility is a WWII Quonset hut with no heat or air conditioning, where lab equipment is squeezed into a corner of a storeroom; incubators are separated from the food prep area only by a plastic curtain; a cramped exam room doubles as a make-shift surgery; and where they wage an ongoing battle against rats to protect baby bird patients.
Despite that, the organization that treats approximately 3,000 sick, injured and orphaned native wild birds each year has an impressive 80% success rate. They also have a far-reaching education program that connects with over 47,000 children and adults each year. Their message about the importance of the local avian population to the environment and the impact humans have on those populations has been delivered to schools, senior groups, service organizations and attendees at local festivals and events.
The response from the community since their need to relocate became public has been extremely positive. In fact, a local benefactor has stepped up to donate 2 acres of the former Washoe Golf Course in Cotati, leasing it to BRC for a minimum of 34 years at just $10/year, including utilities. In today’s market, that amounts to a value of over $2.5 million. In addition, two local architects are applying their talents pro bono to design the new hospital and education facility. Offers of donations and discounted services and materials from professionals in the construction field have lifted the dark cloud of uncertainty and made the organization hopeful that their dream will become a reality.
While BRC is licensed by both California and Federal Fish & Wildlife, the organization receives no tax dollars or funding from the government. They rely 100% on memberships and donations. “We are used to working on a shoestring budget and getting exceptional results in less than ideal conditions,” says Marsh. Those competencies are now focused on a capital campaign to fund the new facility. “We have the location,” Marsh continues. “Now we need the money to build. The support we’ve received so far is a strong indication that our community is behind us and understands and appreciates the work we do—that the tens of thousands of birds we’ve given a second chance to matter to them as much as they matter to us.”
Time is not necessarily on the organization’s side, however. BRC has been working with the County to extend its stay, most recently receiving an extension through October 30th. As the County reviews bids for the property, the exact time BRC will have to vacate is still unknown. “Our hope is to be able to stay where we are until the new owner is ready to break ground,” says Ashton Kluttz, BRC’s Executive Director. “The property will have to be rezoned after the sale and environmental impact studies will have to be completed. We just hope that will be enough time for us to complete construction and move into the new facility.” Should they have to vacate before their new home is complete, it will have an additional financial impact. Paying for interim quarters will drain funds from the construction budget as well as put even more stress on avian patients and their 17 Resident Ambassador birds.
Until the design is complete, it’s impossible to come up with an exact budget for the new facility. The organization is looking to use a pre-fab metal shell, then build-out the interior. “A pre-fab metal shell,” says Marsh, “is most economical—plus it allows us to custom design interior space.” The current estimates for permits, materials and construction are between $600,000-$750,000.
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