The Haunted Castle, the Upper Arlington Civic Association's popular Halloween attraction normally held at Thompson Park each fall, has been canceled this year for lack of funding.

The Haunted Castle, the Upper Arlington Civic Association's popular Halloween attraction normally held at Thompson Park each fall, has been canceled this year for lack of funding.

The UACA is a 75-year-old nonprofit organization made up of 31 volunteers who serve as directors of various events for two-year terms.

Canceling the Haunted Castle is just one measure the UACA has had to take to cope with membership declines that have drained the organization's coffers.

"There's been a steady decline, like a 40 percent drop over the last seven years," said UACA president Brad Ward.

The membership decline, Ward said, can be attributed to increasing difficulty in generating memberships during the UACA's annual Walk in March. During the Walk, UACA directors and volunteers canvass Upper Arlington neighborhoods, seeking new members and renewals of existing memberships at a cost of $25 per family.

The Walk is the organization's only method of raising funds to present events throughout the year, including community staples such as the Fourth of July parade along Northwest Boulevard and Party in the Park and fireworks in Northam Park.

During the Walk the past several years, UACA volunteers have often found "folks not being home, new families that move in and don't really know what the civic association is," Ward said.

"A lot of people don't realize those Walks do pay for the fireworks, they pay for the police and fire to be present at the fireworks. A hundred percent of the funding comes from the Walks. When you have a 40 percent drop in membership, something's got to give."

Canceling the Haunted Castle was a last resort, Ward said.

"We've tracked down more people to donate things that we might have purchased in the past," Ward said. "Our budgets that we've allocated for all of our events have been capped and actually stuck."

The Haunted Castle is not the only casualty of the declining membership. The UACA also had to forego its awards dinner for winners of the Golden Apple Awards, which recognizes outstanding teachers in Upper Arlington public and private schools.

"We would alternate that every year with the city appreciation dinner," Ward said. "This year we canceled both."

To help increase memberships and address the problem of residents not being at home during the Walk, the UACA has upgraded its Web site (uaca.org) so that membership dues can be paid online year-round.

"Ifwe get our memberships back up, we're hoping to have a more energized Walk next year," Ward said.

He emphasized the importance of residents paying membership dues as early in the year as possible, so that the UACA can plan the year's events. Those events include the Easter Egg Hunt, Civic Pride Day, Big Band Summer Swing, Labor Neighbor Day and Christmas in the Park.

Despite the membership declines, the UACA plans to go forward with Christmas in the Park and add another evening to include more Santa visits.

Many people don't realize that the UACA covers all of the costs for the Fourth of July celebration, with the exception of the city donating police and fire services, Ward said.

"A lot of people are worried that the Fourth of July may be in jeopardy. At this point, it's not," Ward said. "But I will just say that if people enjoy the fireworks or people have enjoyed Labor Neighbor Day or if people enjoy seeing the teachers get their Golden Apples, these are all events that the civic association puts on."

The Haunted Castle, however, is unlikely to return, Ward said.

"At this present time, we're not planning on having the Haunted Castle again next year," he said.

Because UACA directors have their hands full organizing events, there are no plans to hold fundraisers above and beyond the Walk.

"We do have a group of corporate fundraisers that get products donated from folks like Giant Eagle and Huffman's," Ward said. "Other than the Walk, there's no push for another fundraiser because we're all tapped out."

To ensure the long-term viability of UACA events, Ward encourages residents to visit the organization's Web site and pay membership dues or donate whatever they can.

"If someone didn't come to your door, just go online and donate your $25," he said. "Every penny counts."