End is near for One World

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BENNINGTON — One World Conservation Center has been a community resource in Bennington for over a decade, but facing financial hardships, the organization will close at the end of this month.

Board President Jock Irons said that, over the past six months, the board has been struggling with harsh financial realities.

On March 6, the board passed two motions: first, to pursue the sale of the center's building, and second, to pursue the transfer of the Greenberg Reserve to a local college.

"We all are saddened, but it is time to face facts," he said. "Even if there were a relatively successful fundraising appeal, OWCC could only remain in operation for a few more months. Grants, small donations, program proceeds and facility rentals barely begin to cover the roughly $100,000 yearly — for mortgage, utilities, director's salary, etc. — required to stay in business."

In addition to managing the 96-acre Greenberg Reserve, the center also hosted educational programs for students and adults, lectures and more.

Calls to the center Tuesday were not returned, and an email received an automated response linking to Irons' statement and saying that emails to the center will no longer be responded to.

"This facility was founded on the idea of a very grand dream, and that has been what it has proved to be," said W. Scott Hoover, who founded the center in the early 90's as the New England Tropical Conservatory, at a luncheon honoring volunteers in December. "Even though the grand dream of a tropical conservatory hasn't been achieved, what we have here now is something that is a real benefit for Bennington." The center moved to its current location in 2004.

"For many years OWCC has been primarily supported by a few angelic donors," said Irons. "These generous donors are no longer able to keep the Center afloat, and without a broad donor base, we find ourselves in a very precarious position. National economic policies and demographic changes in Bennington are also contributing factors to our financial woes. Accordingly, OWCC's doors will close and our esteemed and loyal Executive Director, Holly Betit, will resign on March 30. The good news is that we are negotiating with an interested buyer for the building and that a local college will use the reserve for ecological education and research while maintaining the trails for public recreation."

"We are not alone," said Irons. "Other small non-profits in our area, including the Robert Frost Stone House Museum and the Bennington Center for the Arts, have encountered difficulty and sought mergers with larger institutions. The OWCC board also looked at many options, but unfortunately none bore fruit. We are deeply grateful for your long and generous support of OWCC. Let's all be proud of OWCC's many accomplishments over its lifetime."

Derek Carson can be reached at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com, at @DerekCarsonBB on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 122.

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