Home News Local News City reports strong zoo entry fees in first month

City reports strong zoo entry fees in first month

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City staff say the mission of the Spring River Zoo has shifted from being primarily a rescue zoo to becoming a visitor and tourist destination. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

The Spring River Zoo has reported $6,740 in admissions revenues and 1,636 guests after its first 12 days of charging entry fees.

Roswell City Council members serving on the General Services Committee said they were happy with the results so far, although Angela Moore, who voted against the entry fees, indicated that she still struggles with fees even as she appreciates that new management approaches are being introduced.

Under City Manager Joe Neeb, the city has pushed forward on charging the public for use of enrichment services, such as the Roswell Museum and Art Center, the Roswell Adult Center and the zoo. After much discussion and several votes last year, the city council approved the zoo fees in December 2020 for the 2021 year.

However, fees were delayed until March, both to give the public time to adjust to the change and because the zoo was closed for a while due to the coronavirus pandemic and state restrictions.

For the 12 operating days in March, the zoo recorded 558 visitors from Roswell, 587 people from New Mexico, 486 people from other U.S. states and five international visitors.

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Juanita Jennings, director of public affairs whose department has been overseeing the zoo for 47 days, said the 1,078 out-of-town visitors were especially good to see,

“That is new money coming into the city of Roswell,” she said, “not from our current residents.”

She noted that March was spring break for the area, which could have provided a boost for the numbers.

Total revenues for March were $10,340. In addition to the entry fees, the zoo received $1,030 for membership dues, which includes several new memberships; $1,431 in gift shop and merchandise sales; and money from educational events, birthday parties and donations.

Jennings also gave committee members a preview of an annual plan for fiscal year 2022, which starts in July.

She said the main intention is to create a safe and secure environment for visitors, staff and animals, but that the zoo is shifting its mission, which had been discussed some while the master plan was developed.

“Previously it had been a rescue zoo. While we will still be available for rescue animals, the vision for that is shifting and changing,” she said. “We would like to become known as a world-class experience type of a zoo and a tourist attraction that is engaging and inviting to all.”

The plan has five goals: developing a five-year strategic and operating plan; implementing whatever ideas or plans it can from the master plan first developed in 2016 and updated in 2018; ensuring the quality of life of the animals and increasing the number of exhibits; creating a safe but popular, high-quality tourist attraction; and building a reputation that will attract top staff.

The plan also identified top priorities for capital projects, such as new fencing for the elk exhibit, a new zoo entry complex, fencing for the bison exhibit and upgrades of the bear exhibit. Jennings said those ideas would be discussed more in the coming months as the zoo’s fiscal year 2022 budget is developed.

Councilor Barry Foster said he appreciated having verified visitor counts and noted that it was the first time in the 10 years that he has been working with the zoo that actual counts, as opposed to estimates, have been available.