Animal Refuge Forced to Suspend Fund-Raisers; Future Is in Doubt

Times Staff Writer

The founder of the Wildlife Waystation, a refuge for 500 homeless lions, tigers, bears and other wild animals in Little Tujunga Canyon, said Wednesday that, under pressure from county agencies she is abandoning efforts to hold the fund-raising events that keep the Waystation alive.

The decision places in doubt the future of the 160-acre refuge, a victim of its own popularity.

The Waystation, which has been supported for eight years by donations, volunteer labor and fund-raising events, provides a home for wild animals abandoned by private owners, victimized by mistreatment or exiled for attacking human beings. It has a feed bill of $25,000 a month, according to its director, Martine Colette.

Attracted Huge Crowds

The growing crowds at the barbecues, chili cook-offs and Western festivals Colette staged to raise money--10,000 persons turned out for one last September--drew the attention of county authorities.

The crowds were too big to consider the events a private party, authorities told Colette, and warned that in the future she would have to meet regulations covering public gatherings.

Building and Safety Department officials objected to a road and a stage for performers, which they said were constructed without proper permits. Health authorities demanded that the premises have running water. The Fire Department wanted a limit of 1,000 persons on the grounds, saying that was as many as could be evacuated safely on the only approach, a two-lane road, in case the crowd set fire to the surrounding Angeles National Forest.

'Catch-22' Dilemma

Colette estimated it would cost $350,000 to meet the county's conditions, and said she could only obtain the money by holding a fund raising event--which she could not hold without spending the money.

For the past week, Colette has been exploring alternatives with county officials. They discussed a plan to stage a barbecue, originally scheduled for May 19 at the refuge, in early June at Hansen Dam Park, six miles away, with shuttle buses taking 1,000 persons at a time to the Waystation to see the animals.

"Where would we get the buses?" Colette asked. "Besides, our fund-raising people feel the events in the past were successful because of the (Waystation's) ranch atmosphere, the wild animals, that kind of thing, that we would not have in the park."

She decided Wednesday, she said, that "the fund-raisers are totally killed. Everybody in the county government said, 'Gee, we'd like to help,' but no solution has been found.

"We're trying to raise some money through public appeals to hold off the creditors," she said, but the Waystation is $47,000 in debt to its feed suppliers, who are about to cut off her credit.

"I don't know where the money will come from," she said.

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