Both Oswald and Elizabeth Veblen's wills refer to the Veblen House as the "house herein devised as a part of the proposed library and museum of Herrontown Woods." When they donated 81 acres of Herrontown Woods to the county, they stipulated that it be used "to stimulate and develop public appreciation of the values of wildlife and plants." At the time, Mercer County director of parks and rec, Richard J. Coffee, said of the new arboretum: "Eventually, we envision a nature museum, a system of trails through wooded areas, with trees and other plants labelled." He said that the county hoped to provide lectures and opportunities for nature study.
Though the county did not follow through, examples elsewhere show how it can be done.
The cost of renovating and running this nature center have been kept low by using existing staff, augmented by community volunteers. Money was spent on positive things--renovating, maintenance.
It may seem obvious that one should spend money on positive things, but all too often, when a house drops off a government's list of priorities, only what I call "negative money" can be spent. Negative money might take the form of expensive studies that predict very high costs for renovation, or on damage control following long periods of neglect.
The Lawrenceville Nature Center shows what can be done when a community approaches a challenge with a can-do spirit, and seeks creative, low-cost ways to fill a community need.
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