Zoo Names New Executive Director

Zoo Names New Executive Director

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The New York State Zoo at Thompson Park has a new executive director.

Lawrence Sorel will take the reins in May.

He is coming to the Watertown zoo after 21 years as director of the Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester.

"It was an opportunity that was presented to me that I just could not not take advantage of," he said.

Sorel is retiring at the end of April from the Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester, where he has served as executive director for almost 21 years. He has also worked in multiple zoos across the country at all levels of zoo operation.

"So now it's time to give back, to be able to take a smaller facility that has great bones and great potential and really move the zoo forward," he said.

Thompson Park Conservancy Chair Mark Irwin  says Sorel is a logical fit for the zoo.

"We're thrilled that he's interested in this and he also brings a wide range of zoo experience," he said.

Sorel is no stranger to the Zoo at Thompson Park or the north country. He has been involved with the zoo for many years and he vacations in the Thousand Islands

"Since 1998, the ice storm. We brought a crew up here to help begin to recover. We spent 2, 3 days here and off and on over the last 20 years or so I've been involved either with an accreditation process, AZA accreditation, or helping try to mentor some of the previous executive directors and I've always thought the zoo was a gem of the north country," said Sorel.

While Sorel says he still needs to take some time to get to know the ins and outs of the zoo before making any big plans for it, he has a few broad ideas.

"We have to get more involved in conservation, we have to make sure we're a dynamite education facility and for guests that come through the gate we want to make sure it's an exciting and vivacious place," he said.

Sorel replaces Lesley Clark, who stepped down earlier this year. Former Watertown YMCA executive director Peter Schmitt has been serving as interim director.

The zoo opened for the season at the end of March.

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