Zoo New York will open on weekends this winter

Feb. 6—Watertown — After some successful fundraising in recent months, Zoo New York officials have announced that the zoo will be open this winter for limited hours, starting Saturday.

The zoo will be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The zoo, located in Thompson Park, also will be open during those hours for the full week of winter school break, Feb. 19 to 23.

Interim Director Mark D. Irwin said the decision was made on Monday night by the zoo's marketing and development committee after reviewing fundraising efforts this winter.

"We'll do what we can, even if it's baby steps," Irwin said Tuesday.

In October, the Thompson Park Conservancy, the organization that runs the zoo, announced it was closing the facility without a reopening date.

To open for winter hours, the community and zoo volunteers have come forward with support, Irwin said. So far, the zoo raised $30,000 during a winter fundraising appeal and brought in another $15,000 from the Winter Wonderland Lights presentation during the holidays.

In previous years, the zoo has been open on weekends during the winter.

While there is not yet a path to open for the season, staff and the board are working with their partners "to do everything possible" to make sure that the zoo remains a part of the community, Irwin said.

"The longer we are closed, the less likely we would reopen," he said.

In October, the zoo laid off two-thirds of its staff and moved to an austerity budget. A recent survey found that 70% of county residents want the zoo to reopen.

In response to the zoo's financial issues, the city formed a zoo task force to see what can be done to prevent the zoo from closing permanently.

The zoo task force will meet again on Thursday for further discussion.

Zoo officials think that it would take at least $75,000 in city funding to get the zoo ready to open on May 1 and get through the busy summer season. Plans need to be in place soon to reopen in March.

Ultimately, it will be up to the City Council to decide what happens to the zoo.

The winter appeal is continuing to raise money for the zoo. Donations can be sent to Zoo New York, 1 Thompson Park, Watertown, or by visiting www.zoonewyork.org.

For information about the Zoo New York, follow its Facebook page, visit www.zoonewyork.org, email info@zoonewyork.org or call 315-782-6180.