Tales from the Morgue: It all started with a bucketful of prairie dogs and a few pheasants

A 'Tales from the Morgue' replay
2012-08-17T10:15:00Z Tales from the Morgue: It all started with a bucketful of prairie dogs and a few pheasantsElaine Raines Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 17, 2012 10:15 am  • 

This article originally ran in "Tales from the Morgue" May 2, 2008.

The idea had been under wraps for several years, but in August 1970, City Parks Director Gene Reid announced plans for a new 850-acre regional park along the Santa Cruz River. Included in those plans was a new, modern zoo to replace Randolph Park Zoo.

At the time, the existing facility that began with those prairie dogs in 1965 was on 6 acres and included about 500 animals and birds. Even with a proposed expansion of 12 acres, Reid stressed there was not enough space to properly accommodate the inhabitants and over one million annual visitors.

“It’s simply not enough room to put in the more modern barless natural habitat enclosures for the animals like those used at the San Diego Zoo,” Reid said. “We should have a lot more animals at the zoo for the children of Tucson.”

So, when plans for a new park were drawn up, they included 90 acres for the zoo. The park site was at the southeast corner of Silverbell Road and an extended Sweetwater Drive. A 27-hole golf course was also part of the plan.

Reid predicted it would take a decade to complete the zoo as planned and about $1 million to finish the first stage. Financing could be from private donations, fund drives or city-backed bonds. He proposed a petting zoo would be retained at Randolph Park.

He also emphasized that the city administration had not indicated it would go along with the new site or that they favored financing it with bond money. The council apparently did not approve the new zoo, but the park is home to the 18-hole Silverbell Golf Course.

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"Tales from the Morgue" is a way for the Star to share stories from the treasure trove of information held in its old files.

Johanna Eubank, aka the Morgue Lady, was a research assistant in the Star Library — also known as News and Research Services — for 18 years before becoming an online content producer. She has had her share of sneezing fits after digging into dusty old files, so she's sure to find a few old stories to re-examine.

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