MILL GROVE, PA-The Montgomery County commissioners and the National AudubonSociety formed a public-private partnership allowing the society to operatenaturalist John James Audubon’s residence at Mill Grove, PA. The property islisted on the National Register of Historic places.

The agreement grants the society a 50-year, rent-free lease on a 67-acreparcel of the 175-acre Audubon sanctuary at Pawlings and Audubon Roads inLower Providence Township; all the buildings on the property, includingAudubon’s 1792 farmhouse and barn, and an art collection valued at between$10 million and $12 million. The lease begins on January 1, 2004.

In return, the society is required to restore and maintain the property andbuild an art gallery and visitors’ center. Upgrading the buildings isexpected to cost about $5 million, and an additional $5 million is theestimated construction cost of a gallery for the art, primarily works byAudubon. Under the agreement, the gallery must be completed within 10 years.

“Being able to work with Montgomery County to bring management of Audubon’shome to the society that bears his name brings with it a feeling ofcompleteness,” said John Flicker, Audubon Society president.

The society plans to embark on a national fundraising campaign to fulfillits agreement with the county. The site will become the flagship of thesociety’s 100 education-oriented Audubon centers nationwide.

The agreement takes the county, which has been unable to raise funds toupgrade and restore the property, off the financial hook. “This partnershipwill allow us to protect a priceless asset in the artwork we have, do so atno cost to the taxpayer, maintain public access to the site, draw tourists,and increase educational opportunities for our residents,” said Michael D.Marino, commissioner chairman.

Speaking of the agreement, Alan Candor, head of the county’s advisorycommittee on history and cultural arts, said, “this may be the future forgovernments everywhere. Because of their limited resources, they will needto partner with non-profit organizations.”

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