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Zoo fencing option chosen by city

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Jim Burress, city of Roswell parks director, and Marge Woods, Spring River Zoo Superintendent, share their insight on the options on how to fence off the zoo at Roswell’s Zoo Review Committee on Monday. The committee recommended to leave the park open to the public, rather than closing it off at the parking lot, and it will also be reviewed by the General Services Committee. (Alison Penn Photo)

Councilor Angela Moore doesn’t want a ‘high price at the gate right away’ for admission fees

The park of Spring River Zoo may remain open to the public following closing off the zoo to charge admission, for which potential costs were discussed.

City Manager Joe Neeb explains one of the options for fencing off Spring River Zoo at 1306 E. College Blvd. The city of Roswell’s Zoo Review Committee recommended this option would leave part of the park open to the public and it will also be reviewed by the General Services Committee. (Alison Penn Photo)

On Monday evening, the city of Roswell’s Zoo Review Committee voted unanimously to recommend that the General Services Committee review fencing off the zoo, including the pond, leaving the park open.

Committee Chair Angela Moore and City Councilor Judy Stubbs were present for the last meeting of the Zoo Review Committee. City Councilor Jacob Roebuck was absent.

After discussion, Stubbs made the motion on the fencing options and Moore seconded. Stubbs confirmed with Neeb that this would be the last Zoo Review Committee, since the needed discussions about the zoo from the mountain lion exhibit, cost recovery and more were completed since the spring.

Lead Zookeeper Andrea Cole and City Manager Joe Neeb presented two options to enclose the zoo and to eventually charge admission, as well as open a gift shop where tickets would be sold.

The first option would create an 8-foot cedar fence sectioning off the current park from the East College Boulevard parking lot for $17,798.48 and the second option would leave the park open for public use at $25,312.28. Options were also reviewed for the point of entry that would include a gift shop where tickets would be bought.

In option two, Neeb and Cole clarified that the playground would open to the public and the fence would follow the current sidewalk, splitting the rides and zoo off from the park. Also for option two, Cole said for the section the zoo’s staff would not be able to see the park as well during operational hours and would have to clear out the zoo and the park separately. Parks Director Jim Burress said security cameras would be needed to monitor the park area.

In aligning with the master plan adopted last March, Neeb said option two would be closer to that vision. He added that the parking on North Atkinson near the pond would be available for free fishing days and special events as needed. Some of the concerns were entrance and exits in case of emergencies. Stubbs listed no public access for park-goers as one of her concerns for option two.

Admission

As presented by Cole, once admission is charged, it could cost $4 for ages 12 through adults, $3 for seniors 60 and over, $2 for children ages 4-11 and would be free for Friends of the Zoo members and children under age 3. The costs listed a military discount, $1 per person in large groups such as schools and churches, and one monthly free day.

Woods said the costs were determined by looking at comparable New Mexico city-owned zoos such as the Alameda Park Zoo in Alamogordo, Hillcrest Park Zoo in Clovis and the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens in Carlsbad.

Last year, the zoo staff counted 56,072 daily visitors and this year the zoo had 57,193.

Cole’s presentation listed that if around $35,000 of those amounts garnered was allotted to a salary, the zoo would profit somewhere around $21,000 if only $1 per person was charged. The rides for the carousel and train are also proposed to increase from 50 cents to $1 or $2 in addition to the entrance fee.

From a survey a couple of years ago, Woods said in the responses, people said they would spend $2 on a ticket for the zoo, as is. Bonnie Bitzer, City Council candidate for Ward 2, asked about location-specific fees and Neeb said the city is looking at different rates for city, county and outside visitors.

Stubbs and Moore shared concerns about the costs as presented. The councilors agreed that admission for the zoo as is should be half of those listed amounts and asked the staff to present the original fees and a more-reduced version to the next committee. Need said the staff would work to have these fees to present after the holiday season.

Cost recovery

In September, the council determined a cost recovery plan for the zoo; by the passing of this action, the zoo must earn 5% of the income this year and the next. Cole said in this fiscal year, the zoo has earned $23,856.37 of the required $33,000 through donations, birthday parties in the education building and other efforts.

Adding more zoo staff is being considered to meet the growing needs for the zoo, Neeb said. Using a flowchart, he showed some part-time and other full-time positions to include seven people in sales and marketing, seven for animal care and three for in-house maintenance and labor at the zoo.

After the fence is up and admission begins to be charged, Neeb said the operations of the attraction such as the train, carousel and concession stand will need changes, since it has been conducted through temporary employees. He said it would be more economical for the city to have its own employees and the impact would be an estimate of $91,000 for all of those attractions to be manned.

“… I don’t think we’ve spent that much on the temporaries and everything because we will have closure days and everything,” Neeb said of the $91,000. “But if everything’s operating the way it’s supposed to, then I don’t want to undercut this thing because what we’re going for is a good experience. …”

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