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Zoo to offer private tours, parties

Juno Ogle Photo Zoo Curator Andi Cole, left, livestreams a presentation by Education Coordinator Caitlyn Lenz on May 12 at the Spring River Zoo, 1306 E. College Blvd. The zoo is now offering private group tours three days a week and is booking private parties.

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The Spring River Zoo is taking its first steps toward generating its own revenue by offering private tours and parties.

The zoo remains closed to the general public after the governor’s initial health order in March closing many government offices and businesses.

The city of Roswell’s proposed fiscal year 2021 budget sets a goal for the zoo, Roswell Museum and Art Center, and the Nancy Lopez Golf Course at Spring River to generate 70% of their own revenue.

The budget would also place those three entities in their own funds within the city budget, rather than receiving money from the general fund, where 66% of revenue goes to public safety.

Jim Burress, Roswell Parks and Recreation director, said the zoo having its own fund will definitely be of help.

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“I have donation accounts to everything, but it has to be a donation. That’s how we’ve been doing birthday parties in the past. We can’t charge a fee without going through council,” he said.

Events such as Brew at the Zoo and Oktobearfest are conducted by the nonprofit Friends of Spring River Zoo, with the proceeds being a donation to the zoo.

“What’s changed, if the councilors pass the budget, there’s some line items in there, so everything the zoo makes goes back to the zoo,” he said.

Burress said he was confident the zoo will be able to reach the 70% goal, but it might take awhile. He doesn’t expect the zoo to reopen to the general public until the end of October, mainly due to ongoing maintenance.

“We’ll get part of the year, but everybody’s just going to have to be patient. They’re not going to have a full budget cycle to get to 70%,” he said.

The renovation of the pond is the biggest project, but the parks staff is also planting grass and trees and working on some infrastructure.

“When we open it up, we want people to say, ‘Oh wow, this is really different than the last time I was here,’” Burress said.

He said any admission fee for the zoo will have to be decided by the City Council.

The pricing for parties will remain the same on the two packages that have been offered in the past. However, the carousel and train will not be available as both are undergoing maintenance.

Package one is $150 for a two-hour rental of the party room, a zookeeper host and two animal encounters. Package two offers a four-hour party room rental, zookeeper host and four animal encounters for $250.

Parties can be booked between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. any day of the week.

The party room has undergone some renovation during the zoo’s closure, with a new accessible entrance, ice machine and water filtration system. Some kitchen equipment will also be available, Burress said.

The private tours will be available to groups of three to 10 people. They must be booked in advance for the times offered — 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Tours are $5 per person for zoo members and $10 for non-members.

Tours and parties can be booked by contacting Zoo Curator Andi Cole at 575-624-6760 or a.cole@roswell-nm.gov.

The one-hour tours will include a behind-the-scenes look at the reptile building, an animal encounter and a free calendar.

“It’s fun. You can see stuff that no one ever gets to see and it’s not that crowded. The zookeepers will teach everybody about the animals. You get a whole lot of attention,” Burress said.

The zoo plans on continuing to offer private tours even after reopening to the public.

“We were going to do it anyhow, because it’s fun, it’s part of the education part” of the zoo, Burress said.

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

To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.


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