Zoo celebrates grand opening of projects with ceremony

Meghan Flynn
Jessica Norton, center, executive director of Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo, talks with those gathered for a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday outside the Primate Forest -- Lemurs! exhibit about the projects competed at Lee Richardson Zoo. Projects competed include the Primate Forest -- Lemurs!, a new flamingo exhibit, a larger animal health building and a handmade Conservation Carousel.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to mark the culmination of four construction projects at the Lee Richardson Zoo and open them to the public Tuesday.

The projects are the flamingo habitat, primate forest, animal health facility expansion and carousel plaza.

Kristi Newland, director of the zoo, said construction began a year ago but three of the projects — the flamingo habitat, primate forest and animal health facility expansion — have been in the works since fall 2017.

The primate forest was also a Friends of the Lee Richardson Zoo project.

Garden City city manager Matt Allen said the projects were put on the fall election ballot and voted on by the public as part of a retail sales tax initiative between the city and Finney County to fund the zoo projects, improvements to Jennie Barker Road, in indoor gun range and a third fire station with space for Finney County EMS and the Garden City Police Department.

Funds generated from the taxable retail sales purchases will continue in Finney County over a 15-year period, Allen said.

The three sales tax projects were also part of the zoo’s master plan, Newland said.

“The flamingo habitat that we had and the primate habitat we had had both aged out, they were too small and having structural issues,” she said. “The animal health facility has become too small to take care of the collection, in modern veterinary terms. It's just continuing to support a modern zoo.”

The projects also allow the zoo to provide good welfare for the animals and to contribute to the conservation of the species as well as providing a safe and modern work environment for zoo employees.

Newland said in a previous Garden City Telegram article that the two animal habitats will give guests a “deeper insight into both species.”

“For the primates, for one thing, they will not only have the indoor area where they can have privacy and an outdoor area, but there will be a temperature-controlled area so the animals can be there on in-climate days and guests can still see them,” she said. “That will add a whole new aspect to the zoo.”

The animal health facility extension will feature a surgery room and quarantine space for sick or injured animals.

Newland said the zoo is excited about completion of the projects.

“It's just keeping up with the times, and we're happy to be able to provide the experience for the community, because they support us so much we want to give them a quality experience,” she said.

Allen is also glad to see the projects’ completion. They are the first of the projects to be completed from sales tax.

“It feel really good,” he said. “We’re very excited.”

Garden City commissioners take the first "official" ride on the Conservation Carousel on Tuesday at Lee Richardson Zoo. The carousel is located south of Wild Asia.