Amarillo accepts grants for zoo

by Larry Lemmons
Newschannel 10

Amarillo, Texas - The Amarillo zoo will become larger as the city has renewed its commitment to its expansion.

Thirty percent of the zoo's customers come from I-40 traffic. Grants are available to improve the educational experience of a zoo. Today, more than $100,000 was given to the zoo by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to help pay for a new education center.

Amarillo Mayor Debra McCartt says, "We made the decision a few years ago that the zoo is really important to the city of Amarillo and we decided to put some dollars into it, some funding into it."

October 24th will be the first day a fee will be collected for admission into the zoo. Three dollars for adults, one dollar for kids. The new Herpetarium will also open that day. Larry Offerdahl, the Director of Parks and Recreations says, "Well, we want to double the size of the zoo over the next ten to fifteen years, but charging a very modest fee, to come out to the zoo and they know that 100 percent of that fee is going into the zoo improvement fund."

An Education Center will soon be built that will provide programs for kids all over the Panhandle. It's the next step toward getting accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Ultimately the zoo will have a permanent vet.  Offerdahl says, "We're going to operate a clinic and have a small hospital at the zoo. This will also be a public/private partnership."

McCartt adds, "We have some grants out there that we're looking at that's even going to enhance the zoo further. So I'm really excited about what's happening out at our zoo."

The death of the zoo's Bengal tiger recently has sparked interest in getting two new tigers. Money is apparently already coming in to pay for them.