Why is Salato no longer free?

Salato has always been free! Why do I have to pay now?

The Salato Wildlife Education Center charged an admission fee when it first opened to the public in 1995. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources removed the fee five years later, during better economic times. However, since 2000, the cost of running the facility has risen. The many new exhibits and the miles of hiking trails added since the original admission fee was removed have added to the overall maintenance costs. The nominal admission fee, which is similar to those charged for other state attractions in Frankfort, will help pay the rising costs of operating the Salato Center.

Don’t my taxes pay for Salato?

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources receives no General Fund tax dollars. This means the department does not receive any money from state income taxes, home property taxes, vehicle taxes or sales taxes on most goods. The department is funded primarily through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, boater registrations and federal excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment.

Even if you do not hunt or fish, you support the Salato Center and wildlife conservation in Kentucky with your purchase of a hunting or fishing license.

The Salato Center also receives financial support from the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Donations to this charitable, non-profit organization have paid for several popular new exhibits at the center.

I always put money in the donation barrel and I know that big companies donate as well. Surely this covers expenses.

While donations are greatly needed and much appreciated, they only totaled $38,000 in 2011. It costs the department more than $1million a year to run the Salato Wildlife Education Center. This includes the cost of feeding and caring for the center’s bald eagle, black bear, bobcat, deer, turkeys, elk, turtle, fish, snakes, hawk, owls and other animals. The facility will not pay for itself even with the new admission fee.

You closed your gift shop. Couldn’t you make the needed money by reopening it?

The gift shop closed because it operated at a loss. Re-opening it would only increase our expenses. The department has taken several steps to cut its expenses and delay the need for an admission charge during the past several years. This includes closing the gift shop, seasonal winter closings and staff reductions.

How can I help?

We appreciate all of the support our community has given us over the years. We also realize that times are hard for everyone right now.

There are many ways that you can support Salato. Start by purchasing a hunting or fishing license.

Next, continue to donate. Whether you add loose change to our donation barrel or donate to the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Foundation, we put every penny to good use here. Your donations allow us to build new exhibits, purchase program supplies and train volunteers.

Finally, if your time allows, volunteer! Our volunteers are the people that ensure that every visit to Salato is the best it can be. They help maintain the exhibits, landscape the grounds, staff special events and educate the public. You can find more information about volunteering here.