Funds for zoo projects

Roosevelt Park Zoo kicks off capital campaign for new cat habitats

Eloise Ogden/MDN
From the left, Becky Dewitz, Roosevelt Park zoo director; Ron Merritt, Minot Park District executive director; and Jennifer Shirley, vice president of the Minot Zoo Crew and chairman of the Centennial Capital Campaign, announced the launch of the zoo’s community capital campaign at a press conference at the zoo Visitor Center on Wednesday. Funds will go toward new habitat areas for the zoo’s cats.

Eloise Ogden/MDN From the left, Becky Dewitz, Roosevelt Park zoo director; Ron Merritt, Minot Park District executive director; and Jennifer Shirley, vice president of the Minot Zoo Crew and chairman of the Centennial Capital Campaign, announced the launch of the zoo’s community capital campaign at a press conference at the zoo Visitor Center on Wednesday. Funds will go toward new habitat areas for the zoo’s cats.

Minot’s Roosevelt Park Zoo officials are inviting the community to help reach the $5 million goal to finance a three-phase project for new lion, tiger and leopard habitats.

On Wednesday, Becky Dewitz, Roosevelt Park zoo director; Ron Merritt, Minot Parks executive director; and Jennifer Shirley, vice president of the Minot Zoo Crew and chairman of the Centennial Capital Campaign, announced the launch of the community’s part in the Capital Campaign.

It is the first large-scale capital campaign leading up to the zoo’s centennial year in 2021. Slightly more than $2 million has already been raised. A $1 million grant from the Minot Community Facilities Fund, $1 million from the Minot Zoo Crew and a $500,000 grant from the Minot Area Community Foundation provided a start for the total cost.

“We’re asking for our community to come together and help us to get these exhibits – these major renovations we’re talking about at the zoo,” said Merritt. He said the Minot Park District is behind the project 100 percent. “Roosevelt Park Zoo is a gem in our community and we’re very proud of it,” he said.

Dewitz said the new projects not only will make the Minot zoo a better zoo for the community but will also provide the animals with larger and more natural habitat.

Submitted Art
This drawing shows the new Amur Tiger habitat planned at the site of the existing duck pond near Roosevelt Park Zoo’s Visitor Center. Tigers will roam three separate yards with waterfalls and overhead catwalks. Visitors will walk through and around the habitat on the Amur Tiger Trail.

Submitted Art This drawing shows the new Amur Tiger habitat planned at the site of the existing duck pond near Roosevelt Park Zoo’s Visitor Center. Tigers will roam three separate yards with waterfalls and overhead catwalks. Visitors will walk through and around the habitat on the Amur Tiger Trail.

She announced that new donations given on Tuesday for the projects include $50,000 from Town and Country Credit Union in Minot and $20,000 from another source. She said one individual who was visiting the zoo gave $7 for the projects – all the cash he had in his pocket at the time. Dewitz framed the $7 and it was on display Wednesday because it was the first donation.

Plans are to break ground for two of the new habitats in early 2018. The Amur Tiger River Valley, new habitat for the tigers to roam at the site of the existing duck pond near the Visitor Center’s entrance, and the African Lion Savannah, new habitat to allow visitors to see lions in natural surroundings with giraffes and zebras visible in the background, will be constructed first.

Big Cat Country, renovation of the existing cat complex, will increase space and climbing habitat for the Amur leopards and snow leopards and will be the final portion of the project.

Dewitz said they anticipate completing all three habitats in time for the zoo’s 100th anniversary in 2021. “We just want everybody to be a part of it,” Dewitz said.

Shirley said the three-phase project for the zoo’s cats will make the visitor experience much better and for the cats as well. “It will be so wonderful to give them more room to crawl around; it will be great for the visitors because they’ll be able to see them in all different aspects,” she said.

Submitted Art
This drawing shows the new habitat for the African lions planned at Minot’s Roosevelt Park Zoo. New habitat would also be constructed for tigers and leopards.

Submitted Art This drawing shows the new habitat for the African lions planned at Minot’s Roosevelt Park Zoo. New habitat would also be constructed for tigers and leopards.

Small donations and large donations will be accepted for the capital campaign.

People can drop off donations at the zoo office in the zoo’s Visitor Center weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., visit the zoo’s website at rpzoo.com or go to the zoo’s Facebook Donations are tax deductible.

“It’s not only going to improve the well-being for animals but it’s also going to improve the visitor experience,” Dewitz said.

She said the new habitats can be a game changer in terms of where the zoo can be. “We are a very good zoo, we are an AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) zoo. This is our opportunity to be the best small-town zoo in the nation,” Dewitz said.

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