(Photo: Miller Springs Nature Center/Facebook)

Miller Springs Nature Center, which has been a destination in Bell County since October 1993, will close, volunteers announced Thursday.

Citing declining membership and funding, the Miller Springs Alliance said it surrendered its lease -- which had been held for 24 years -- back to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has decided to shut down the 260 acres of federal publicly accessible recreation lands on the Leon River below Lake Belton.

"It is a unique place in Central Texas, and we are saddened to see the gate closed," the nature center wrote in a Facebook post.

For years, the Miller Springs Alliance, made up of volunteers, worked to maintain the trails and animal habitats around the nature center by removing invasive species and fallen trees, among other maintenance efforts.

The nature center was a destination for geologists, birdwatchers, boy scouts and school field trips. Park-goers would regularly see hikers, bikers and photographers enjoying the public land.

Dozens of concerned community members posted social media comments Thursday asking why there had not been a prior notification alerting public to the funding issue and encouraging the community to rally together to save the site.