Homeplace 1850s Resumes Normal Operations for 2021
April 1, 2021 | Staff Report
Editor's Note: The following article was published in Friends of Land Between The Lakes' March Newsletter and is written by Tim Pohlman, LBL Acting Area Supervisor, USDA Forest Service.
The Forest Service operates the Homeplace with our LBLA partners providing environmental education and performing many of the day-to-day chores involved in operating the farm. It is a partnership that has served the Forest Service and the community well the past 20 years that we have had the privilege and responsibility to manage LBL. Our partnership is guided by our agreement and the Forest Service is committed to making our agreement successful.
As stewards of federal funds, we place an emphasis on cost effective recreational opportunities. As we have seen the purchasing power of our budget diminish over the years, we have closely tracked the revenues we earn at our various fee sites, investing the proceeds back into operations and maintenance of recreational and environmental education programs. We developed a sustainability strategy to help guide cost effective program decisions to meet the evolving needs of our visitors. Among the options proposed for the Homeplace in this strategy was a model that would increase revenues by drawing in additional visitors while having a partner take more responsibility for the financial aspects of Homeplace management. Another plan would cut costs by simplifying the program to a curated, self-directed display. We pursued both options due to a particularly challenging budget forecast for 2021.
This winter the Forest Service requested (and received) two proposals for managing the Homeplace to increase revenues by attracting additional visitors. We welcomed the ideas we received, but this process was inconsistent with our partnership agreement with LBLA. Ultimately, we did not choose one proposal over another. Instead, we have re-committed ourselves to working with LBLA to make the Homeplace program the best that it can be, given the challenges we face with budget. This means that we will continue this year with a living history program at the Homeplace, presented by LBLA professional interpreters, working together to raise additional revenues without raising the admission price. Some operational costs in Fiscal Year 2021, and into 2022, will likely be paid from the LBLA Trust Fund while we seek additional revenues to fund the program. We are discussing program innovations weekly with the LBLA staff and have welcomed other ideas that will help to recover more of the operational costs at the site. Seeking sponsorships, adding additional special events and working more closely with Scouting or other youth organizations are among the ideas identified for emphasis. We would welcome other ideas appropriate for the Homeplace program.
The Forest Service is grateful that the Homeplace will continue as an interpreter-led program through this Fiscal Year and hopefully, into the future. It helps immensely that we are authorized to spend the receipts we earn at LBL to support our Protection Act environmental education mission. Significant financial challenges remain and we will be working closely with LBLA in the coming months to improve our ability to provide high quality programs into the future.