Pensacola News Journal
August 19, 2009
Zoo closed for good
The Zoo Northwest Florida is now officially closed permanently.
That was the message this afternoon from the partners of Animal Park, Inc., at a meeting of the Santa Rosa County Tourist Development Council.
The council was to consider a $125,000 request for funding from the zoo. The group's meeting is ongoing.
“There was no long-term commitment from the community,” said Bob Switzer, one of four principals of Animal Park, Inc. “We are officially, now, closing the zoo. ... We are trying to put together something with the land and the animals.”
As the council discussed the request, Animal Park, Inc., issued a press release confirming the closure.
Animal Park, Inc., is the for-profit group that owns the property where the zoo is located and had given it over to the Gulf Coast Zoological Society with an expectation that the society would assume the zoo’s debt.
The society, however, turned the facility over to Animal Park, Inc., Sunday when it closed the zoo for lack of funding to pay all employees.
Laurie Gallup, who manages vacation rentals on Navarre Beach, pleaded with the council to fund the zoo.
“I don’t think we’re giving the zoo a fair shake,” said Gallup, who said she buys children’s tickets for her guests. “The people who come here to vacation support the zoo. ... We should look at this as an investment in the community.”
Nancy Forester, a zoo volunteer who has logged about 2,500 hours at the facility.
“The kids are so excited because they can actually touch some of the animals,” Forester said. “The boys love the snakes.”
Support for the zoo was not without limits at the meeting. Chad Volland, an owner at Cocodrie’s restaurant on Navarre Beach, said many local businesses are having hard times, but aren’t likely to get a government bailout.
“If we give $125,000 to the zoo, is that $125,000 we’re not going to be able to use to bring in spring break, snowbirds (and other tourists),” asked Volland, who plans to lay off about half of his 60 employees after Labor Day.
“If it’s a tourist attraction and you don’t have tourists, what’s the use of having it?”
Zoo officials had pledged to reopen Friday if the council and the Escambia County Commission each had given the zoo $125,000 this week.
The Escambia County Commission is scheduled to discuss the zoo’s request Thursday.
Information and discussion about the ZOO and the Lighthouse Private Christian Academy inside the Zoo
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- Kenny Wilder
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Well, I guess that's understandable in this day of so many "bail outs" ... but a sad day, too. Apparently, the tourism and visitor numbers weren't enough to keep it going. Hope they find the animals some good homes in other zoos!