Thompson Park Zoo to ask city for $100K in funding annually

wwny Thompson Park Zoo to ask city for $100K in funding annually

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Watertown City Council and the Zoo at Thompson Park will meet Monday night to lay out the future of the zoo and to talk money.

A work session will be held at the zoo, where city leaders will look at the zoo's new 5-year strategic plan and zoo leaders will ask the city for 3 times the amount of funding it currently gets.

Zoo Executive Director Larry Sorel says the city's help is a must and he's asking for roughly $70,000 more than what the zoo already gets.

"We've talked about somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000 a year for the next few years. That's still obviously subject to negotiation with the city," he said.

Sorel says that money will go directly toward the zoo's marketing campaigns and education programs.

He stresses cash flow is a top struggle and says the organization needs to enhance the guest experience overall.

The plan includes the recommendation for at least four organized events each year to support the zoo's mission.

"If we don't get people through the gate, we're not going to survive. It's really that simple," said Sorel.

Sorel says part of the path forward is getting the zoo's accreditation back with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, a seal of approval in the zoo business and something Watertown lost twice before.

Before presenting the 15-page plan, Sorel reflected on where the zoo stands, and where it's heading.

"Simple answer is I'm not waking up at 3 in the morning thinking about it anymore. It's always going to take work. Any small nonprofit in a small community is going to be challenged. But, we will make it," he said.

Watertown Mayor Jeff Smith says he’ll support the proposal for $100,000. Council members Lisa Ruggiero, Sarah Compo and Jesse Roshia all say they will look at the plan with an open mind. Council Member Ryan Henry-Wilkinson didn’t get back to us.

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