There was much discussion at the monthly meeting of the Minot Park Board last night about bringing an aviary to the Roosevelt Park Zoo.
Zoo director David Merritt recommended that the old education building on the zoo campus be repurposed into an aviary. It would be a couple of years before the building could be turned into an aviary, he said, and the old education building is one of a handful of buildings on the zoo campus that has been used as shelter for people and animals during storms. Repurposing the building would maintain its historical appeal, keep the building looking inviting, and being an interesting exhibit, he added.
The idea of repurposing the building was approved as an idea at the previous zoo committee meeting, Merritt said, and the building will need other repairs like an effective heating system. He was looking to the park board for a decision to move ahead, but not asking for money at this time.
Jill Hambek/MDN • The old education building at the Roosevelt Park Zoo, shown here, will possibly be repurposed into an aviary, a topic brought up for discussion at the monthly meeting of the Minot Park Board last night. The idea was presented by zoo director David Merritt, but the park board decided to discuss it further at the next meeting.
Commissioner Robert Petry said he had asked for other ideas on what to use the building for, but pointed out that in Merritt's presentation Merritt had said they'd discussed use of the building for just an aviary. "I don't know that there aren't better ways to use the building than an aviary," Petry remarked. Merritt agreed, but also had a few discussion points.
"The zoo needs more housing for birds, birds move around a lot and bring an auditory aspect, and they're not stinky like mammals," Merritt noted. "The exhibit cost and care is relatively low compared to other exhibits. To me the building says aviary."
The decision to repurpose the building should involve more than two committee members before moving forward with the idea, Petry said. "To get an answer tonight is way too quick."
The Greater Minot Zoological Society is looking to start a capital fundraising campaign, Merritt said. There would also be minimal dollars from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and flood insurance money coming in for the bottom floor since the building was insured, he added. It would cost a bare minimum of $490,000 to get the building ready for use, Merritt noted. The Greater Minot Zoological Society is currently looking for someone to conduct a feasibility study as well, Petry said.
"It would be a shame for (the building) not to be used as a public building," commissioner Connie Feist remarked. "The sooner we decide, the sooner we can move forward with it."
"Birds are diverse, colorful and not stinky," Merritt pointed out. "They're also not as expensive as other animals."
Petry thought the proposal should be further discussed at the next committee meeting and would have a decision in a few months. He also said he'd like a total estimate from Merritt as well as consideration of bringing in other animals besides birds to the building, like animals that not many other zoos have. "An aviary would be quite unique, but maybe another animal would be unique."
Also up for discussion was the acceptance of a newly acquired grant Merritt received for the zoo, which would include a manual, four-speed small train with a gas engine that could carry people around the zoo. The train would have the capacity to carry 16 kids or 12 adults and have a running time of five to seven hours, Merritt explained. The zoo also would have garage space for it, he added. "The train is tiny and can fit through pathways and leave room for walkers," Merritt also said. The train is three feet wide and has a public address speaker system. It was decided that the Greater Minot Zoological Society would staff the small train and make income from it, which could bring in $31,000 a year. The value of the grant is about $32,000, Merritt said.