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Wildlife Sanctuary Set to Reopen Next Week

A new director and manager are named for the Tucker preserve. Its closure lasted a year.

August 26, 2003|David Haldane | Times Staff Writer

Following a yearlong closure that drew protests from nature lovers and environmental activists, the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary -- a 12-acre nature preserve run by Cal State Fullerton in Modjeska Canyon -- will reopen next week with a new director, university officials said Monday.

She is Karon Cornell, the university's retiring director of communications, who defended the handling of the sanctuary this year when the Audubon Society, which owns it, threatened to find another trustee.

"In Karon," Kolf O. Jayaweera said in a statement Monday, "we have a person with a solid background in community relations." Jayaweera is dean of the university's college of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, which oversees the sanctuary.

The announcement came 3 1/2 weeks after the university named Birkin Newell -- a local educator, naturalist and restoration ecologist -- as the facility's new on-site manager. He replaced longtime manager Ray Munson, who retired in 2001.

Citing "personnel changes and storm damage," university officials closed the sanctuary without warning last fall. "In the midst of a series of interim caretakers," spokeswoman Paula Selleck said, "the weather damage occurred. We closed it for safety reasons; you can't have a public facility open to schoolchildren when bridges need restoration."

The closure nonetheless prompted protests from environmental activists who insisted that the sanctuary be maintained for public use, and warnings from the Audubon Society -- which had entrusted it to the university's foundation in 1968 -- that it would take the land back because of "inappropriate maintenance."

University officials hope all that has passed. "The community seems very supportive of what's going on," Selleck said regarding Monday's scheduled reopening. "The neighbors are very happy."

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