The following is the opinion and analysis of the writers.
Some big changes are underway at Reid Park and the Reid Park Zoo. Both are truly treasures for the city of Tucson; caring for and enhancing them is an important responsibility. The citizens of Tucson passed the Future of Your Zoo ballot measure in 2017 and the Parks and Connections bond in 2018 to do just that.
The Parks and Connections bond is bringing some much-needed improvements to Reid Park: a new playground, splash pad and improvements to walking paths and the DeMeester Outdoor Performance Center, to name just a few. The north pond will get a new pump system for cleaner water and the waterfall will be rebuilt, all of which will remain accessible to the general public – and create a healthier habitat for our Reid Park duck population.
Reid Park Zoo’s master plan is bold and exciting. The overall goals are bigger spaces for animals and more interactive experiences for guests. Our mission is to connect people with animals, to inspire everyone to take action to protect wild animals and wild places — these improvements give us ample opportunity to do just that. These changes will enlarge and enhance the zoo, and we remain committed to being accessible to all members of the Tucson community.
The Future of Your Zoo plan includes an expansion to the west of the Zoo’s current footprint and will encompass the hill and smaller south pond at the edge of Reid Park. This “Pathways to Asia” expansion will feature many new animal habitats, including a large hilltop tiger habitat that is five times the size of the tigers’ previous home in the zoo. The larger footprint will also make room to bring new animals to the zoo, including red pandas, sloth bears, fishing cats and a reptile house featuring a Komodo dragon.
Reid Park Zoo is dedicated to wildlife conservation, which includes making the best choices for natural habitats in our area, so we work closely with local wildlife officials on all our projects. The ducks in the park are frequent zoo visitors and they will still fly into this area after its expansion, but their home will still be the north pond, which will remain part of Reid Park and fully accessible by the general public. We also worked with arborists to preserve as many healthy old growth trees as possible, modifying development plans to work around those trees.
Passing the Future of Your Zoo ballot measure was a big deal, and so was being transparent about the changes being contemplated. In creating the Zoo’s master plan we met with neighborhood groups, service organizations and other community interest groups, and held open forums on the subject, with more than 100 meetings in 2017 and 2018.
Our local media published maps showing the expansion area. We presented the details at council meetings. In November 2019, Tucson Parks and Recreation held an open house to discuss at length the impact the plan would have in the park and then to gather community feedback. We specifically asked people if they were in favor of the master plan. We were pleased that 92% said they were.
Thank you, Tucson, for your support of parks and Reid Park Zoo. Please visit our website regularly to see our plans, follow our progress and give us your input for the future of your zoo. You have ensured that our community treasures will be maintained and available for generations to come. Thank you for making a difference.
Dr. Shane C. Burgess is the Reid Park Zoological Society board chair and vice president for the Division of Agriculture, Life and Veterinary Sciences, and Cooperative Extension, University of Arizona; Nancy Kluge is president & CEO of the Reid Park Zoological Society.