Thompson Park Zoo Needs Millions In Upgrades, Members Say

Thompson Park Zoo Needs Millions In Upgrades, Members Say

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"This darker support beam that is actually rotted all the way through," Thompson Park Zoo director Lesley Clark said while pointing out problems with one exhibit. "It's pretty bad and it holds the exhibit together."

It would cost $25,000 to fix the exhibit and thousands more to update another one.

There's much to be done at the zoo. 

Clark says some exhibits, such as the newly renovated otter house, show what the zoo can do with some investment, but there's not enough money to maintain the way it operates.

It's to the point where certain areas of the zoo have been shut down.

"It has been closed for a complete season," Clark said of one exhibit.

That's why zoo members are turning to the city of Watertown and the county for help. 

They say they need around $2.2 million to turn the zoo around, but they have to start somewhere. They're asking the city and county for a one-time $97,000 each, plus upping the yearly funding. 

If nothing happens, the zoo's management consultant, Peter Schmitt told Watertown's city council, "the ability to continue to operate the zoo will be in jeopardy."

"You know you have our support," city council member Teresa Macaluso said, "it's just where we're going to get it from, that's the problem."

The zoo says it has found a way to stay sustainable for the next two years. 

If it can get help from area governments, then it will try to raise the remaining $2 million through fundraising.

"We don't want to go on a capital campaign until we can prove that we're sustainable, it's just not fair to ask the community for funds for an operation that may not exist," Schmitt said. "

When we go out there and ask the community for a capital campaign," he said, "we will be able to assure them that we'll be around for a long time."

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