This past weekend was a busy time at Lee Richardson Zoo. On Saturday we had our annual Boo! At the Zoo event. There were more than 5,300 people at the zoo that evening to enjoy the spooky atmosphere and candy.

Events like Boo! At the Zoo are not only fun for the whole community, but they allow the Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo to raise the funds needed for the large improvement projects. Such capital improvements allow the zoo to keep pace with constantly evolving animal exhibition and care standards, and to ensure Lee Richardson Zoo remains a quality zoological facility. Then on Sunday we were able to celebrate one of the rewards of fundraising with the grand opening of our new African spurred tortoise exhibit. Events such as these always fill me with a sense of pride to be a part of such community support.

The support of everyone in this community has allowed us to continue as one of the last free zoos in America. I remember growing up loving to go to the zoo, but it could only be done maybe two or three times a year because of the cost. The admission cost of most zoos might surprise you. For a family of four it would cost around $40 or $50 a visit at other zoological facilities. This hindered my family from visiting zoos more frequently when I was growing up. But with the support of our community, Lee Richardson Zoo has been able to remain a free zoo without limiting the quality of the zoo experience. Like the zoos in Omaha, San Diego or Wichita, Lee Richardson Zoo maintains or exceeds the same high standards set by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and by regulatory agencies like the USDA.

I first moved to Garden City to work at Lee Richardson Zoo as an animal keeper. Now I help the community more directly on the team of educators that the zoo utilizes to give programs to our community. In other communities these educational programs would cost between $100 and $300 per session. A fee like this could quickly diminish our school district's capacity to utilize such field trips.

With operations support from the city of Garden City, combined with generous donations from the community, the zoo remains a very affordable educational and recreational resource for southwest Kansas. Because of this support, we can provide many services at low or no cost, thereby directly giving back to our community. We have maintained no cost for most of our educational programs where children are able to enjoy and learn from up-close experiences with our animal ambassadors.

Thank you for every bit of support you give to Lee Richardson Zoo; from our docents, to Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo members, to the Garden City City Commission, and the countless other individuals and organizations that I am unable to mention in this short article. All of the staff of Lee Richardson Zoo thank you. Your continued support energizes all of us to strive to be the best zoo for our community. Now come on down and enjoy the fruits of your continued support. Simply stroll through our facility or call 276-1250 and schedule an education program.

Thank you for helping Lee Richardson Zoo be our own oasis on the plains.