Zoo to stay put for the time being
Sutter’s Landing will not be the future site for the Sacramento Zoo.
That determination was made during a City Council workshop Tuesday afternoon. The workshop was called so the council members could be brought up to date on the current status of the zoo – currently located on 14 acres in Land Park – and where it will be in the next 40 years.
The workshop was called by Councilman Rob Fong following a feasibility study released last July.
For now, the council has decided to keep the zoo in Land Park.
“I think it’s pretty obvious that we’re not going to be looking at putting the zoo anywhere else in the short term,” Fong said, adding that the “short term” means anywhere in the next 20 years.
Zoo officials addressed the council, saying that the zoo will only remain sustainable for the next 20 years unless the zoo is relocated or changes the scope of its programs.
That change could be anything from a new site to an expansion into William Land Park or a different scope of programs at the current site.
A previous idea of moving the zoo to Sutter’s Landing – atop a former landfill – by the Sacramento Zoological Society Long Range Planning Committee is too costly to be feasible, according to staff.
The Sacramento Zoo has been known for its large animals, said Mary Healy, executive director of the Zoological Society. She added that some of the most popular larger animals – including elephants, bears and a hippopotamus – are no longer at the zoo.
Some of the animals were moved to make space for giraffes, and the hippopotamus died.
“With 14 acres, we’ll never be getting some of those animals back,” she said, adding that a 14-acre zoo would need to feature smaller animals, but with better, more involved experiences for visitors.
By contrast, Oakland’s zoo is about 45 acres.
One example of a more involved experience is the zoo’s current program that allows supervised feeding of Giraffes, which Healy said is very popular.
Council members agreed that keeping the zoo in Sacramento is important to the city, as it is a regional attraction that draws approximately 500,000 visitors each year from more than 20 countries.
“I would hate to see the zoo leave this area,” said Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy. “It is a quaint urban zoo, and we want to make it bigger, and we want to make it better.”
Any plan to make the zoo bigger or better still needs to be determined, and numerous concerns and problems will crop up in any proposal.
Building an all-new zoo at another site would be costly, keeping the zoo in its current location might not be big enough going into the future, and expanding the current site might strain traffic and parking in Land Park, a spot resident and Land Park Volunteer Corps President Craig Powell said is already maxed-out for dealing with traffic.
“Broad popularity comes with its own set of impacts: heavy traffic and congestion, particularly on weekends and holidays, severely limited parking and major competition for space among park users,” Powell wrote in a letter to City Council.
Parking is one of the Zoological Society’s top concerns after visitor safety, and ensuring there is enough public access to the zoo is a priority as well.
After the two-hour meeting, the City Council directed city staff and zoo officials to come up with a plan for what is required for the next 20 years in the current Land Park site.
“If that doesn’t work, or if there’s controversy, it might accelerate looking at other options in the longer term,” said Councilman Steve Cohn.
Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.