Thompson Park Zoo in Serious Financial Trouble

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Zana Healy, Staff Reporter

Zoo officials at The New York State Zoo at Thompson Park in Watertown are saying that the zoo is in serious enough financial trouble that it could become necessary to close. The zoo needs more support to help keep their doors open.

A former zoo board member named Peter Schmidt told the North Country Public radio that the past ten years have not been easy on them. The zoo is requesting nearly $100,000 each from the city of Watertown and Jefferson County.

Watertown and the county give $70,000 annually and that is not including the services they provide like repairs and utilities. The city managers say that if they were to offer any more it could put the city in a difficult spot.

The city would possibly have to raise taxes just to cover their own expenses.

With the extra support the current zoo CEO says they could justify a $2 million capital campaign to remodel and improve the facility. Then in two years from now if it is successful the zoo might be like it was back in the 1990s, when the facility was turned over to local control by New York State.  

This zoo has been around for 97 years. Local children helped raise the money to get the animals that are at the zoo currently.

This zoo is one of the main attractions in the Thousand Island Region. It attracts nearly 50,000 visitors per year and is supported by 800 member households and also reaches nearly 5,000 people through education programs.

Thompson Park Zoo has been known locally as a fairly cheap date. Even though it isn’t that big compared to some of the other zoos around upstate New York it’s still a good place to go and hang out for the day.

Many local people have fond memories of the zoo; to see the zoo close, not knowing where the animals would go, seems like it would be a very sad thing. To also know that the next closest zoo is a 70-mile drive to Syracuse is likely to also strike many as sad.