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Committee considers future of Spring River Zoo

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Roswell City Councilors Jacob Roebuck, Angela Moore and Judy Stubbs discuss matters related to the Spring River Park & Zoo at the second meeting of the Zoo Review Committee on Tuesday. Three of the zoo’s ringtailed lemurs are pictured on the screen behind the councilors. (Alison Penn Photo)

Interim improvements and fundraising efforts presented

Roswell city councilors and Friends of the Zoo members discussed additional improvements to the Spring River Park & Zoo, as well as fundraising, during a recent meeting.

Zoo Review Committee members are City Councilors Angela Moore, Judy Stubbs and Jacob Roebuck, with Zoo Superintendent Marge Woods acting as staff liaison.

This was the second meeting of the Committee. Future meetings are slated for the first Monday of each month. However, Committee Chair Moore stated Tuesday’s meeting was held in lieu of a June meeting, and the next meeting will be held in July.

No formal action was taken by the committee. Presentations were given by the city’s Parks and Recreation department, zoo staff and Friends of the Spring River Zoo.

Jim Burress, director of Parks and Recreation, reviewed the zoo’s masterplan and the various steps the zoo staff has taken since the plan’s adoption by City Council last March. Burress stated the masterplan is a “concept” that he and staff turn into work plans.

Burress said the zoo’s utilities, such as gas and water lines, are nearly mapped out. He said various maintenance efforts have been made including irrigation projects, tree planting and landscaping exhibits.

Woods listed all of the improvements at the zoo over the last two years. Additional members of the zoo staff were also present at the meeting.

Roebuck said he was excited “to find money” to support the zoo. He did say he was “disappointed” that the mountain lion exhibit is not ready, despite the efforts made by the zoo and the Friends of the Zoo group.

Roebuck asked for a number for the exhibit, and Burress said the city was $250,000 short. The staff confirmed a total project of $500,000 for the exhibit.

“If we can get this cat exhibit done, we will show the city and the valley that we’re serious,” Marge Woods said. “I think people are waiting to see what’s going to happen. I think that is when we’re going to start bringing some big money in. People want to see what we’re doing. It’s not been a great history in the past with money that had been donated, so they’re waiting to see what’s going to happen.”

Burress and Woods said implementing the western design theme was underway. Material for covered wagon-style shade structures has been ordered, barrels for trash cans and benches with wagon wheels on them have been selected.

Unified signage has also been approved by the zoo staff and was funded by donations amounting to $14,200.

Coyote fencing is also being implemented in the zoo and eventually may line the perimeter. Burress and Woods said exhibits would have windows for children and those in wheelchairs to see the animals.

Woods said smaller zoos often have a “specialty” or a “hook” and she suggested the rescue aspect could be Spring River’s niche.

“Education is a huge part of what small zoos do,” Woods said. “We are not the Albuquerque zoo. We are not the San Diego Zoo. We don’t save the animals on the planet, but we educate. And we educate about conservation and our zoo is a great place for recreation as well. That’s what small zoos do. They educate about the animals that they have in their care — about the animals that we share.”

Sue Weston from Friends of the Zoo listed the fundraising the support group has brought to the city-owned zoo. From a PowerPoint slide, she read off amounts which totaled over $86,300, with some donations of unspecified amounts.

Kelly Smith said the Friends launched a new animal adoption program called “Zoo Pals” — adoptions can be purchased for amounts ranging from $25 to $1,000. Information about “Zoo Pals” can be found on the group’s website at friendsofspringriverzoo.org.

For fundraising highlights, Weston said April’s Brew at the Zoo event raised $10,000 for the zoo. A similar event is planned this fall and a paint party is to be held for the interim mountain lion exhibit in July.

Near the end of the meeting, Roebuck stated that the zoo provides an incentive for professionals, like doctors, and their families to stay in Roswell. Various opinions on the matter were stated at the committee meeting.

A potential Labor Day event and the zoo’s current mission statement were also discussed.

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.