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. 

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jat
Avatar of jat
February 23, 2011 | 10:21 AM

I see no reference to the well-being of the zoo animals. What a tragic warping of priorities. This should clue people in to the fact that zoos are for entertainment, not for promoting conservation and habitat. They talk a good game, but ask Sac Zoo how much money they’ve spent on buying habitat in the wild? On helping wild animals be returned from rehab facilities? How many young have they bred, without regard to need or proper long term placement, so that the public will always be seeing the cute little babies? When you go to zoos and circuses, you are subsidizing animal exploitation.

February 23, 2011 | 10:39 AM

And what, praytell, is wrong with entertainment and education?

Exploitation? In order to promote conservation efforts, damn right, and a good thing too.

February 23, 2011 | 10:37 AM

The Sac Zoo needs more space. If Sandy Sheedy wants to keep it in Land Park, she will have to take out the Golf Course and/or the lawn areas and figure out parking.

bea
Avatar of bea
February 24, 2011 | 12:10 PM

There are several adjacent areas of the park that could be easily taken over by the zoo, if that was necessary. Parking is easy: on weekends let people park at City College and have free shuttles to the zoo (and Fairytale Town and Funderland).

February 23, 2011 | 1:01 PM

Has anyone even brought up the possibility of having the zoo move to the Downtown Railyards? Perhaps if it was built in the middle of commercial or mixed use, it would work out better for everyone.

February 23, 2011 | 8:24 PM

That would require buying back a considerable chunk of land from Inland, who effectively paid housing boom-level prices for the land. That’s expensive, not counting the actual costs of building an entire new zoo. It would also require considerable revision of the Railyards specific plan, and believe me, that’s a can of worms we don’t want to open.

There is room to expand the zoo within the boundaries of William Land Park, but the residents of the Land Park neighborhood would most likely be very resistant to the idea.

bea
Avatar of bea
February 23, 2011 | 5:18 PM

Why does bigger equal better? It could certainly be made better without expanding. It is currently, more or less a throw back to 1950′s zoo design. The reptile house is pathetic, the pond is hard to see, the bird enclosures are lame. Big animals do not make a zoo cool. An immersive experience that makes you feel like you are in the animals habitat does. Redesign the animal enclosures, re-landscape with “natural” features such as streams, rocks, winding pathways. Dont try to bring in elephants.

February 24, 2011 | 9:38 AM

“Why does bigger equal better? It could certainly be made better without expanding. It is currently, more or less a throw back to 1950′s zoo design. The reptile house is pathetic, the pond is hard to see, the bird enclosures are lame. Big animals do not make a zoo cool. An immersive experience that makes you feel like you are in the animals habitat does. Redesign the animal enclosures, re-landscape with “natural” features such as streams, rocks, winding pathways. Dont try to bring in elephants.”

I completely agree. It feels very 1950′s, but it could be redesigned in a much better manner (and not as a petting zoo Curmudgeon).

February 24, 2011 | 10:12 AM

So in other words, settle for a petting zoo. Bah. An immersive experience that makes you feel like you are in the animals habitat” requires more space, even for relatively small critters.

bea
Avatar of bea
February 24, 2011 | 12:07 PM

It could easily be modeled after the Healesville Sanctuary in Victoria Australia, which is one of the best “zoos” I have have been to in my travels around the world ( http://www.zoo.org.au/HealesvilleSanctuary ). It is small, incredibly interesting and immersive. There are no giant animals but they are all interesting (and you can pet some of the Kangaroos). The bird (and bat) enclosures are amazing, we saw a Lyrebird mating dance right in front of use and had 20 huge bats hanging 15 feet above our heads.

February 23, 2011 | 6:39 PM

There was plenty of land in Natomas…hundreds of acres that could also been leveraged as conservation easements, generating a huge inflow to pay for building the zoo. But the city council AND staff were too busy chasing builder fees to consider the best use. Natomas is a flood plain, we could have had a zoo to vie anything San Diego has, but natural to the area.

Heather Fargo still haunts the city halls. This new council thinks just as small as the last one.

February 27, 2011 | 10:29 AM

Ok. Honestly I’ve been to the sacramento zoo about twice and have not been back since. Honestly there are not enough animals to really go and see. The more exotic animals a Zoo aquires the more business it gets. I understand people like it being “small” and “cuddly” or whatever, but honestly if I want to go to a Zoo… I just go to the bay area. More land, more exotic, more variety of animals.

February 28, 2011 | 9:02 AM

Also, expansion may be necessary to provide animal habitats and enclosures that meet updated Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) guidelines in order for the zoo to continue accreditation, which is very important for animal welfare. There are also exhibits that provide high impact viewing and interactivity that don’t require a gobs of space. Examples would be aquatic animal exhibits such as Sea Otters or River Otters, Beavers, Sea Lions, Alligatiors and Crocodiles.

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