I am proud to have served on the initial exploratory committee and now as a member of the Nogales Children’s Museum board of directors in the process of obtaining our 501c3 legal non-profit status.

Finally, a non-political cause emerges that promotes a better quality of life in our town! This is something the NI can certainly get behind. Admittedly, I was very skeptical at first when I got a call a few months back from Marcelino Varona, Jr. whom the NI has ribbed for his direct and indirect involvement in all things political in Santa Cruz County.

After months of asserting that he would scale back his community involvement to better focus on the Santa Cruz County Provisional Community College District and the Santa Cruz Senior Center, he sheepishly told me he had agreed to lead yet one more effort. He insisted he had been left with very little choice.

It turns out the idea came from local produce man and land developer Dino Panousopoulos. Varona said Panousopoulos, a hard-headed businessman, told him he would help finance the museum on the condition that Varona spearhead it. Varona initially declined but reconsidered when Dino threatened to simply let it drop.

To his credit, Panousopoulos, has attended and actively participated in every meeting the board has had since March. He expresses frustration with the process he had hoped would be abbreviated by Varona, who is known to streamline such things. But he hasn’t fired Varona -- yet -- and seems to be coming to terms with the fact that this is going to take a while. But with the superintendents of both the Nogales and Rio Rico public schools on board, this movement is picking up steam fast.

Our next effort will be this month, when we meet with the residents of the Meadow Hills subdivision to float the possibility of utilizing the Palo Duro Country Club building, which stands abandoned after multiple failed efforts to headquarter a golf course and restaurant there. It has been the city’s white elephant since it acquired it in the 1970s as part of a water-rights deal with area developers. The greens have been replaced by brush and weeds, much to the disappointment of area residents, who may have made their home-buying decision based on the fact that there would be a beautiful rolling golf course in their midst.

If the residents decide that is not the right location, we will surely find another. But they will have missed out on a perfect opportunity to repurpose the dilapidated clubhouse and some of the grounds surrounding it to serve their children as well as kids throughout Santa Cruz County and beyond. Some of our members have gone on reconnaissance to the Tucson Children’s Museum and the San Diego Children’s Museum, and we intend to eventually bring, at least on a smaller scale, that type of quality and stature to our very own facility.

I’m excited and I hope our readers will be too. Opportunities like this that can only serve to actually improve Nogales and bolster our pride in our community rarely emerge.

(Coppola is publisher of the Nogales International. He can be reached at publisher@nogalesinternational.com.)

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