San Joaquin County staff maps out five-year plan for Micke Grove Zoo

Wes Bowers, Lodi News-Sentinel, Calif.
·2 min read

Feb. 23—San Joaquin County's general services and parks and recreation departments have designed a plan to update and improve the needs of the Micke Grove Zoo in the hopes it will continue to be a viable amenity for residents.

The two departments will present a five-year plan for the zoo to the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors today, outlining infrastructure needs, exhibit and guest experience improvements, as well as an increased revenue strategy.

The presentation is part of a response to a 2019 San Joaquin County Civil Grand Jury report that investigated claims that parks and recreation trust funds were being depleted, as well as complaints of inadequate staffing and funding at the zoo.

The civil grand jury asked the county to present what it envisions for the zoo over the next five years by March 31, 2021.

According to the presentation in Tuesday's agenda, the seven objectives developed by general services and the parks and recreation department are not detailed plans, but will serve as foundations to achieve strategies and tasks for each priority.

One of those objectives is to improve both revenue and the guest experience for visitors, which includes adding dining and shopping options, something the zoo has never provided.

To increase revenue, staff has suggested creating dining and shopping opportunities such as food carts and a gift shop, which would also enhance guest experience.

Staff has also suggested creating an online merchandise store to generate more revenue, as well as redesign the zoo's current website to improve visitors' experiences.

In addition, staff has suggested creating interactive exhibits such as a "Hoof Corral," along with educational programs where visitors can watch zookeepers feed animals, ask zoo staff questions about the animals or learn detailed information about each exhibit.

Another objective is to improve zoo exhibits in a way that promote the health and safety of zookeepers and animals, as well as animal health, well-being and cleaning efficiencies.

This would include developing a list of all exhibits that need improvement, as well as create a list of minimum accreditation standards.

Staff will also find a nonprofit organization willing to partner and raise funds and awareness of the zoo, and foster positive relationships with the community at-large.

In addition, staff will find an appropriate accreditation body for the zoo, which will independently recognize zoo achievements, as well as create an updated volunteer program emphasizing the zoo's mission of providing an experience that creates an understanding of wildlife to the community.

Judy Vasbinder, parks administrator, declined to comment on the plan Monday, preferring to wait until after the supervisors' meeting.

The meeting can be viewed online at sanjoaquincountyca.iqm2.com/Citizens/default.aspx, or at the board's YouTube channel.

The five-year plan can be found on page 705 of the supervisors' agenda, online at www.tinyurl.com/SJCZoo.