Several local residents turned out Tuesday to speak in favor of Logan’s Willow Park Zoo during a Municipal Council meeting.
The council did not make any decisions regarding the future of the cash-strapped zoo on Tuesday. Rather, it was an opportunity for city leaders to gather input from the public.
Options for the zoo’s future include closing it down, giving ownership of the facility to Cache County or reverting back to a joint ownership/funding arrangement between the city and county, according to Russ Akina, Logan’s parks and recreation director. He has noted the zoo may have trouble getting through the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Ten people spoke at the public hearing, and nearly all of them giving supportive comments.
“My children and I have visited it many times, and, you know, we personally feel that it’s a valuable thing for Cache Valley. I think many, many people in Cache Valley do think that it’s a worthy and a valuable thing,” said Logan resident Michelle King. “What I worry about is that in our actual actions, we have not shown that we support it, because we’ve not been able to fund the zoo enough to keep it running. So I know that whatever the council decides, there’s going to be ... somebody unhappy because it’s going to be a divisive issue.”
King said Tuesday that her comments were geared more toward valley residents than the council.
Looking into the audience, King added, “If you value the contributions and the presence of the Willow Park Zoo, then I would encourage everybody this summer to give generous admission fees to the point that you think it’s worth to be able to keep it open.”
Laura Wolford, who has previously served on the Willow Park Zoo board, said there are “thousands of people like her (King) and me that love the zoo and support the zoo.”
She told Logan’s officials, “We can save the zoo if it’s not too late in some of your minds.”
Bill Bower, a Logan resident, aired some comments critical of the zoo.
“If the zoo can’t carry its weight, close it,” he said, adding, “I don’t think it’s all that well-run. They have problems keeping the animals where they belong. It’s a great place if you want to look at hybridized water fowl.”
Bower’s comments were countered by those of Troy Christensen, chairman of the Willow Park Zoo board.
“I think our zoo is well run,” he said. “It almost sounded like a Jumanji moment — that animals are running wild. But a peacock on a roof isn’t a big deal.”
Christensen added, “I would assume that all of you are probably like me and have some grandchildren. Where do you take grandchildren? Where do you take your children as an alternative to the technology absorption and isolation that is so prevalent in our community? We need activities that we can take children to — to get them out.”
County Councilman Val Potter said the zoo has been a “wonderful” place to take his kids and grandkids.
“The zoo is part of the heritage and the history of Logan city and Cache County — for recreation, entertainment and everything else,” Potter said. “This is important for us, and the decision that you’re making as a council is very far-reaching. ... And I don’t want you to take it lightly. I think to let this zoo go without a fight or a good, solid try would be a serious mistake.”
Potter committed Tuesday to work with the county’s RAPZ (Restaurant, Arts, Parks and Zoos) Tax committee and the Cache County Council “to make sure that we get additional RAPZ funding for the zoo this year and ongoing.” He asked Logan councilmembers to commit to matching that potential increased funding.
He concluded, “With that kind of funding, this zoo can continue forward.”