Portland-area voters to decide on $380M bond for Oregon Zoo upgrades

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – In May, Portland metro area residents will decide on a $380 million bond measure to make improvements to the Oregon Zoo.

The Metro bond measure will support several animal well-being projects, education initiatives, sustainability upgrades, species recovery, and wildlife conservation, the Oregon Zoo said.

“The Oregon Zoo doesn’t just keep pace,” said Dan Ashe, president and CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. “It’s a leader in helping set the pace for ever-rising standards, thanks in large part to your community’s ongoing support.”

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The new bond would overhaul the zoo’s penguin and sea otter habitats, which are located in one of the oldest areas of the zoo’s 64-acre Washington Park campus, dating back to the 1950s. Investments would also go towards the zoo’s Africa area – including improvements to the giraffe habitat.

“The things that are left to do are just as important,” noted Metro Councilor Christine Lewis. “Particularly to being top of the line when it comes to animal health and well-being.”

Officials said the measure would also support better opportunities for visitors to engage with animals, improve pathway accessibility around the campus, and would provide better heat and extreme weather protection for the animals, visitors, and staff.

Additionally, the bond proposes funding to help the zoo transition to a fossil fuel-free campus.

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“The Oregon Zoo is part of us learning how to do conservation and to do it right,” Metro Council President Lynn Peterson said.

If passed, the measure is not projected to increase current tax rates, officials said – noting that payments from previous bonds are winding down.

The average estimated rate for the new measure is 8.5 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, or about $1.95 per month for the owner of a home assessed at $275,000, officials said.

Voters approved a previous bond in 2008 — and saw completed projects in 2021 — that transformed the zoo’s habitats for elephants, polar bears, chimpanzees, and condors. The measure also brought a new veterinary medical center online and expanded classrooms.

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