Changes, new landscaping and other developments can be seen in progress at Spring River Park & Zoo.
Zoo Superintendent Marge Woods informed the Daily Record that her staff, along with the city of Roswell’s Parks and Recreation department, have been working diligently by “fixing, repairing, renovating” the zoo, adding major landscaping at 1306 E. College Blvd. and preparing to break ground on the interim mountain lion enclosure. A new sewer line was recently put in for the interim mountain lion exhibit.
One year ago, the Roswell City Council approved the zoo master plan from MRWM Landscape Architects (Morrow Reardon Wilkinson Miller) with approval from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). Woods said the staff started with “low-hanging fruit” projects and the public may be unaware of the progress.
Once the interim mountain lion enclosure is finished, Woods said the next phase of the master plan would be to address old mountain lion and bear enclosures. Those structures were built in the ‘70s and if the city must build new ones, from the ground up, the price tag would roughly be over $1 million, Woods said.
In the northwest corner of the zoo, the new elk enclosure, formerly two stock exhibits, is being filled with new trees and other landscaping. In the fall, Woods said the zoo rescued two adult elk and both are doing well. Around the zoo, installation of fences, planting new trees and removing other “dangerous” trees and updates to the animal’s night houses are in progress.
The reptile exhibit is closed for the time being, but Woods said the reptiles are still housed and cared for by the zoo. Additionally, the reptiles will make appearances of private tours and educational events. Woods explained that private tours at $10 per person, with a minimum of three people and maximum of 10, could also generate revenue.
Since she took over two years ago, Woods said her eight-person crew is nearly fully staffed with three open positions. In December 2016, the zoo was down five employees. She said a new zookeeper position was filled and the zoo is looking to hire an education coordinator.
“The renewed interest created by the master plan has been exciting,” City Manager Joe Neeb wrote in a statement. “Early in this year, we spent a lot of time preparing for the larger-scaled projects such as the mountain lion exhibit and the elk enclosure. As the year progressed, staff turned to the smaller more noticeable improvements. We are looking forward to maintaining this progress into this year and believe it is being well received by our citizens.”
Woods and Senior Zookeeper Andrea Cole presented the zoo’s current undertakings to the Parks and Recreation Commission on Monday. At this meeting, Woods said the interim mountain lion exhibit’s remaining cost is $350,000 and the zoo still lacks $100,000 to finish it. Woods also reviewed a first drafted admissions cost proposal and asked the commission for its input.
For the pricing, Woods used admission fees from Alamogordo’s Alameda Park Zoo and Hillcrest Park Zoo in Clovis to come up with Roswell’s figures. The fees listed in the documents are as follows: adults and ages 12 and up at $3.50; $1.75 per child, ages 3 to 11; seniors $3; military discount with ID at 50 cents; group rates at $1 per person; and Friends of the Spring River Zoo members would have free admission. Possible free admission days and adding a gift shop were also on the entrance fee proposal.
Commission member Hannah Robertson asked if the zoo would consider a local resident fee.
Woods also announced that the zoo is looking into separating the park and zoo in order to charge admission. When asked by the commission, Woods said the park and the fishing pond would remain free.
“The days of free anything and everything are going away,” Woods said. “If we want the zoo to survive, we have to find ways to bring revenue in — even though it is a service to the city and it is something that the public just loves …”
Charging admission and separating the park and zoo would assist in having a more accurate visitor count, Woods and Cole explained to the commission. At this time, Woods said the keepers count visitors four times a day and the numbers were over 50,000. Cole said knowing the number of visitors could also assist with grant applications.
For the zoo’s theme, Woods said the zoo will have animals from the Americas — representing North America, Central America and South America. Woods said programming from the Keeper Talks to the Pre-K Kritters has been successful and there will be a spring break program at the zoo. For more information, Woods suggested interested parties call 575-624-6760 or visit to talk to zoo staff.
The zoo has garnered $8,247 since the installation of the four donation tubes in May 2017. As listed in a handout to the commission, the zoo and the Friends of Spring River Zoo have collectively raised over $18,400.
Design for new signage is in progress and may be in place as of summer; Woods said the project will be funded from a $10,000 grant from Cielo Grande Veterinary Center.
A full calendar of events is also being planned for from Arbor Day to Friends of Spring River Zoo’s second annual Night of the Living Zoo. Woods and Cole also shared fundraising efforts from the first sold-out wine and paint party on March 14 and the upcoming Brew at the Zoo on April 27.
City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at email@example.com.