Local view: Turn our inferior zoo into a nature centerAfter reading in the News Tribune about the Lake Superior Zoo’s difficulties with some of its post-flooding bills (“Duluth dickers over flood aid,” Aug. 13), I am disappointed the community zoo we all love and enjoy somehow didn’t get flood insurance or better coverage after a flood in 2010 to handle all the bills from the historic flood of 2012.
By: Matthew Waterhouse, for the News Tribune
After reading in the News Tribune about the Lake Superior Zoo’s difficulties with some of its post-flooding bills (“Duluth dickers over flood aid,” Aug. 13), I am disappointed the community zoo we all love and enjoy somehow didn’t get flood insurance or better coverage after a flood in 2010 to handle all the bills from the historic flood of 2012.
What will the excuse be for the next flood?
Flood after flood, excuse after excuse. The zoo has an uninspiring grand master plan that cost thousands to formulate and millions to implement, and it has a picnic pavilion renovation project costing hundreds of thousands of dollars when other buildings exist already for such needs. In addition, there’s little transparency; media and others aren’t allowed at zoological board meetings, even if you are a zoo member.
And now: no more polar bears unless millions appear out of nowhere.
My fellow Duluthians, it is time for the inferior zoo of West Duluth to become extinct. It is clear to me the zoo of amusement rides, Bessie the elephant and Bubba the polar bear we all grew up with is gone and will never come back. It is not the fault of a flood; it is the lack of consistent, professional zoological management and a long history of wrong choices and bad ideas.
I believe the grounds, buildings and park should be turned into a nature center — the Hartley or Chester Park of West Duluth, if you will. Let native wildlife, especially waterfowl, return to the creek. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Great Lakes Aquarium and St. Louis River Watch could stock and restore the creek over time. Merge the zoo with Spirit Mountain for cross-country skiers. Use zoo fences for another badly needed dog park in West Duluth. Enlarge the community garden. Merge zoo sidewalks to the Munger Trail for bicyclists and hikers. Keep some native wildlife for natural education. There are plenty of current zoo exhibits for education, too, negating the need for more money. In conjunction with Hawk Ridge, rescue and release injured wildlife at what should be the former zoo, like the Raptor Center does at the University of Minnesota.
Look at the International Wolf Center and North American Bear Center, both in Ely, and at Hartley Nature Center and other such successful places in our region for more examples to follow.
Turn Lake Superior Zoo into a nature center we all can enjoy and use to serve Duluth instead of spending money on an inferior zoo that is a mere shadow of what it once was.
Remember this suggestion during the next flood or when you hear the next plea for a mountain of money for the next zoo project.
Matthew Waterhouse of Duluth is a zoologist who applied to be CEO of Lake Superior Zoo, where he was a junior docent in 1992. With a business degree, he has worked for the Walt Disney Company in Florida, the Sea World/Busch Gardens theme parks and at several zoos. He attended the country’s only American Zoo & Aquarium Association- accredited zoology college.