OAKHURST — After 23 years of serving families and children throughout the mountains and central San Joaquin Valley, the Children’s Museum of the Sierra in Oakhurst on Tuesday announced the permanent closure of the popular facility.
Museum Director Jim Elliott announced the unfortunate news in a press release late today.
“We are extremely proud of our community museum,” Elliott said. “Since 1997, we have operated primarily with volunteers and minimal staffing. The operation has always been dependent upon revenue from museum visitors, civic or charitable donations, and ‘Pals of the Museum.’ But the operation has become increasingly difficult these past few years.”
“Now, due to circumstances beyond the museum’s control, state and federal decisions required museum staff to close for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency.” Elliott added. “That was the correct decision, but admission fees to sustain the operation immediately stopped. Then last week, items stored at the museum for a fundraising event were stolen. That was the last straw for the staff.”
“Normally, we could recover, but not this time,” Elliott said. “We simply cannot meet our financial obligations. The current pandemic was the nail that sealed our fate. It pushed us over the financial edge.”
With no emergency back-up funds and “an unpredictable future,” Elliott said the museum’s board of directors “reluctantly made the tough decision.”
“With the support of our many volunteers and members of the community, the directors had no other option but to close the museum permanently,” he said. “The closure is merely another unintended casualty of this wicked pandemic. We are heartbroken.”
The Children’s Museum of the Sierra was founded in 1995 by a group of parents headed by Director Jean Hand.
The facility opened in July 1997 and has been at its current Oakhurst location (49269 Golden Oak Drive) since February 2000.
Created for children ages 2-12 and their families, the museum provided hands-on exhibits and programs designed to encourage visitors to learn by doing, imagining, creating and discovering.