Utica Observer-Dispatch: Utica Zoo 'dreams big'
Posted Sep 27, 2016 by Utica Observer-Dispatch
The Utica Zoo unveiled an upwards of $75 million master plan Tuesday evening that would transform the 102-year-old institution into a premier regional destination complete with an Asian temple that overlooks the city and African, Adirondack and rain forest themed habitats that would house everything from giraffes to black bears to gorillas.
UTICA — To say that the Utica Zoo has decided to "dream big" might be a bit of an understatement.
The zoo unveiled an upwards of $75 million master plan Tuesday evening that would transform the 102-year-old institution into a premier regional destination complete with an Asian temple that overlooks the city and African, Adirondack and rain forest themed habitats that would house everything from giraffes to black bears to gorillas.
The plan was presented at a special event on the zoo's grounds dubbed "Dream Big With the Utica Zoo," which was filled with zoo officials, members, donors and local dignitaries.
It's the first time the zoo has formulated a master plan since 1990, and would be funded primarily through donations and phased in over a 20-year period.
The zoo hired Seattle-based firm ELM Environments to analyze every aspect of the 80-acre property and the best way to utilize the 50 acres that are available for expansion using a concept called "return on exhibit," which looks at the conservation status of a species, the educational aspects of the animal, visitor experience, cost to feed the animals and cost to build or maintain exhibits.
The plan that was developed would create habitats that will immerse visitors as guests into the natural environments of the animals who reside there and build upon the zoo's conservation and education missions to teach visitors about wildlife, their habitats and locally relevant conservation issues.
Some of the highlights include:
An area that would be anchored by a multi-story temple that would hold animal exhibits and also serve as an observation deck, and be surrounded by forest habitat exhibits for animals such as red pandas, orangutans, tigers and snow leopards.
Would feature an Adirondack Lodge that in addition to house exhibits, would serve as an event center and food service facility and incorporate an interior underwater viewing of the adjacent otter and turtle habitats. It would also overlook a black bear and timber wolf habitat and feature a forest zip line roller coaster.
Would feature switchback trails, elevated boardwalks and a canopy ropes course and exhibits that would include giraffes, gorillas and hyenas.
Would feature the a renovation of the current primate building and feature an outdoor exhibit space for sloth, tamarins, maned wolf and Andean bear. In addition to new indoor/outdoor habitats for the primates, a new indoor fruit bat exhibit would also be included.
*The plan also includes new conservation center, picnic pavilion and nature play area, and additional rest rooms, parking areas and entryways.
Zoo members, volunteers and donors Joe and Kelli Samson, were on hand for Tuesday's reveal, and said they couldn't believe their eyes.
The estimated total cost of the entire plan ranges from $63.2 million to $75.8 million.
Implementation of the plan is slated to occur in one-, three-, five- and 10-year increments, with some of the major project costs coming after the 10-year mark.
The Utica Zoo's budget is raised through initiatives such as admission fees, education programs, society membership, special events such as "Wine in the Wilderness" and the "Spooktacular," gift shop sales, animal encounter programs, pavilion rentals and donations. It also is funded by an annual subsidy from Oneida County an an annual operating grant from the Natural Heritage Trust state agency.
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