Verona (WSYR-TV) -- The Fort Rickey Children’s Discovery Zoo in Verona has been a popular attraction for four decades in Central New York, giving hundreds of thousands of people a hands-on experience with animals. But the owners say that after 34 years in business, it’s time to sell.
Len Cross, a wildlife biologist and owner of the zoo, was living in Canada with his wife, who in the mid-70s wanted to move closer to home. They began looking to buy some property and found the zoo up for sale and the rest is history.
Cross says none of his three sons are interested in taking it over and that he knew the day would come when he’d have to sell it.
“Sometimes I'm encouraged and excited about a new change in my life and about a new change for Fort Rickey and new ideas, new energies that will come and sometimes I flash back and think of all the things we've done here, so it will be very difficult on the day we decide to leave,” Cross said.
The zoo has grown quite a bit since Cross bought it 34 years ago from the founder. It has a very carefully designed balance between contact animals, like goats, deer and llamas, to more exotic animals, like otters, lemurs and wolves.
“I just hope we can find somebody else that can get the same kind of gratitude and pleasure that I've gotten running this business for 34 years,” Cross continued.
While Len says he doesn't want Fort Rickey to be known just as a petting zoo, the simple fact is this is a big part of what they do.
“We have lots of animals you don't make contact with but it really is the heart and soul of what we do. You come to Fort Rickey, as well as go to those other zoos, but you come to Fort Rickey because you want to let the children make relationships, get close to the animals,” Cross explained.
Cross says he’s willing to hang on for few more years if that’s what it takes to find the right person to buy the zoo. Fort Rickey is open from mid-May to late October and attracts about 25,000 visitors a season.