Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Plan Would Double Size of Zoo

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Plan Would Double Size of Zoo

Article excerpt

HACKENSACK - A long-term county plan would transform the Bergen County Zoo over the next 15 years, nearly doubling its size, adding 12 new species of animals, overhauling habitats and adding multiple centers and event spaces in an effort to double its number of annual visitors.

Freeholders heard broad strokes of the plan Wednesday from Mario Campos, principal with Jones & Jones, a Seattle-based architectural firm that is developing the master plan for the park. The company has done work for more than a decade with zoos in Detroit, Miami and Dublin.

Parks Department Director James Koth laid out the current state of the zoo, which opened in 1960. Though animal exhibits and other portions were added to the zoo through the decades, including an educational center in 2004, there haven't been many major upgrades to the 13-acre site since 2006.

The plan is divided into multiple phases, the first of which would renovate and upgrade the existing center that holds the prairie dog and red wolf exhibits, Koth said.

About 230,000 people visit the zoo each year. The goal is to more than double that to 500,000 by the end of the projected 15-year expansion, Koth said.

The next and perhaps most visible change would come by expanding the zoo's footprint by taking over open space, Campos said. That's where the county could add 11 acres to the zoo, nearly doubling the size to 23 total acres.

The development of each phase will be demand- and revenue- driven, County Executive James Tedesco said.

The Dublin Zoo took similar steps, Campos told officials. As the Dublin Zoo increased visitors and revenue, it worked in new projects each year.

Tedesco said the plan included a combination of public-private partnerships for restaurants and other amenities at the site along with help from donations and such groups as the Friends of the Bergen County Zoo.

Freeholder David Ganz asked about the cost of the expansion.

Tedesco didn't give any figures, saying planning was in early stages and "conceptual."

"We'll have cost projections at some point, David," Tedesco said. "We're not wanting to put a number out there. Everybody gets stuck on that number, it's either too high or too low. …

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