A popular community attraction – the Idaho Falls Zoo at Tautphaus Park – inches forward toward expansion thanks to a cooperative venture between the City of Idaho Falls and Bonneville County.
Last night, following a public hearing, the Idaho Falls City Council approved the purchase agreement to acquire the Bonneville County 4-H Fairgrounds property, located just west of the Idaho Falls Zoo on Rollandet Drive.
In conjunction with Idaho Falls’ approval, the Bonneville County Commissioners approved the sale of the property following a public hearing earlier this morning. The County sold the property after relocating the 4-H fairgrounds to a larger parcel.
“This is a wonderful step forward for the entire community. As zoo attendance continues to increase, this expansion becomes more and more timely. It will allow us to draw in more tourists even as we educate more young people about the natural world around them. You simply can’t beat that combination because everyone wins—taxpayers, local tourist-based business owners and young people. Congratulations all around,” states Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper.
Idaho Falls Parks & Recreation Director, Greg A. Weitzel states, “We are very thankful that the Mayor, City Council and County Commissioners agreed to this important property acquisition that has been in discussion for decades. The future is looking bright for the expansion of the zoo, as well as new 4H fairgrounds near Sandy Downs. I’d like to especially thank County Commissioner Bryon Reed for his leadership on this important project – we believe the best is yet to come.”
Today’s property acquisition follows a $500K donation in February 2017 from William J. Maeck for a new Idaho Falls Zoo education center. The education center will be part of a new Idaho Falls Zoo Master Plan currently in development that will direct future growth and improvement of the zoo.
The education center will be named the “Maeck Family Foundation Education Center,” in honor of this generous donation.
Idaho Falls Zoo Executive Director David Pennock states, “We are very excited about the possibilities that this new land provides for the future of the zoo. With over 300 animals in our care and having served more than158,000 visitors this year alone, the zoo desperately needs more space.”
The total purchase of the land was $695,000, as determined by an independent appraisal from Kelley Real Estate Appraisers, Inc. Approval required a 2/3rds vote by each party, respectively.
“I would also like to thank the Idaho Falls Mayor, City Council and the Bonneville County Commissioners for their vision and hard work. This cooperative effort will have a big impact on generations of Idahoans,” adds Pennock.
Although the Idaho Falls Zoo is currently closed for the season, education classes are still being held. Follow the Idaho Falls Zoo on our website, Facebook and Instagram for information and updates.
William Maeck is a local retired chemist who is passionate about supporting education and animal welfare in southeast Idaho. He was instrumental in supporting a myriad of education and animal-based programs including the Snake River Animal Shelter, The ARTiTorium on Broadway, the Museum of Idaho’s expansion fund and Maeck Family Foundation Education Center, as well as The Art Museum’s ARTWorks program, and Maeck Family Foundation’s scholarships for high schools students.
The Tautphaus Park Zoological Society (TPZS) raised $250K for the education center. TPZS will manage a perpetual fund of $100K through the Idaho Community Foundation that will provide annual funds for maintenance and utilities. TPZS is a non-profit organization that manages the zoo’s membership program and supports a variety of zoo fundraisers each year. The society’s contribution came from funds earned through local events such as the North American Brewer’s Association Mountain Brewers Beer Fest, Wines in the Wild, Zoo Brew, Reed’s Dairy’s Chillin’ at the Zoo and Boo at the Zoo.
According to a patron survey conducted in 2015, 63 percent of zoo visitors came from outside of Idaho Falls. From April 9 to July 19, 2016, the zoo hosted more than 7,700 schoolchildren from 31 communities in 12 counties across Idaho and from cities in southwestern Montana and western Wyoming. A previous independent study from 2009, using visitor surveys, concluded that the zoo adds $3.54 million annually to the local economy.
Nationally, attendance at zoos continues to increase. On average, 86 million people visit zoos and aquariums each year, with an astounding number of overall visits estimated at around 186 million.
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Media Note: For more information or to schedule an interview with city staff, contact Public Information Officer, Kerry Hammon. ###