Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - Rosamond Gifford Zoo is embarking on a multi-million dollar makeover designed to make the facility more enjoyable for visitors – and to make the grounds more sustainable.
"We've had some issues here that have really been gone unchecked for quite some time," said Onondaga County Parks Commissioner Bill Lansley. "We have safety issues, water runoff issues, and we have animal exhibit issues."
There will be three big changes regarding conservation and safety:
- First, there will be a completely new front entry way at the zoo. They’ll fix the sidewalk trip hazards and completely remake a wetland section into a courtyard.
- Second, the parking lots will be redesigned to address the major flood issues and collect rain water as part of the county’s Save the Rain program.
- Third, a new system that will connect the ponds and wetlands inside the zoo is expected to save millions of gallons of water.
“This pond…during the summer months we drain and refill and clean every two weeks,” said Zoo Director Ted Fox about the flamingo pond in the center of the zoo.
That’s 1.6 million gallons of water into the storm system twice a month. It’s an expensive and wasteful technique that will be replaced with an entirely new system.
“We have plans to capture that water, re-circulate it, filter it, and reuse that water so we’re going to save, in essence, millions of gallons of water,” said Lansley.
The water from the front flamingo pond will circulate to the swan pond, and new wetland areas will be created in between to naturally filter the water and create space for more animals.
“It's going to be a huge construction project here in the spring. But next summer you're going to see some massive improvements,” Lansley said. "It's just going to be a wonderful place to come here and visit next year."
Outside, kids will have a new safe place to gather when they hop off the school bus.
"In the Spring and Fall we have large groups of school kids that come here. You get bus after bus. We're going to open up some of these areas into gathering areas so when the kids are getting off the bus they can safely get away from the street and gather up their group before they go into the zoo," Lansley said. “So this whole area is going to be taken out. It's going to be made into a courtyard. We'll put sails over it and a lot of nice seating areas.”
And parents won't have to worry about flooding in the parking lot.
“We actually had one vehicle pretty much go underwater where that white car is down there,” Lansley said.
New porous pavement and water retention areas will redirect overflowing rain water to exhibits that need it.
“We could recapture a lot of the storm water - rain water- and then use that water in here instead of turning on the faucet to fill this every time,” Fox said.
“The street that you come up to the zoo is actually Conservation Drive. So we're living the mission now to take care of the interior, exterior and the community at the same time,” Lansley said.
The project is expected to cost the county $2.5 million. Construction will begin in spring 2013 and officials hope it will be done by the end of the school year.