An estimated 1,300 contributing members of Hogle Zoo helped inaugurate the zoo's new woodland exhibit.
The $500,000 "Forest 'n' Fort" exhibit includes skunks, sans scent, crawling through the "Polecat Mine," a human-size bird's nest, shy rabbits and, of course, the fort complete with a jail and shop selling waffle ice cream cones. It is the second phase of the zoo's Discoveryland."What we have done it try to make it more experience-oriented," Lynn Davis, the zoo's marketing director, said.
Zoo Director LaMar Farnsworth and James Hogle Jr. officially opened the exhibit with a brief ceremony. While contributing members were allowed a sneak preview of the exhibit, it will be open to the general public on Saturday.
The new zoo addition is designed to exhibit animals and trees found in a temperate forest zone. As visitors round one corner they are met by a forest pond complete with porcupines, tortoises, ducks and colorful fish. At the next, children slide through a plastic tunnel while rabbits play above and a barn owl looks on.
From the fort's towers, people can watch buffalo grazing nearby and view the Salt Lake Valley. As they exit they can see a baby mule deer scamper inside a protective fence.
The entire project was funded through donations, and zoo workers have spent off hours helping ready the exhibit for a summer opening.
"The zoo's vet even carved all of the signs," Davis said.
The zoo is hoping to raise enough funds to add two more phases to the project, including a human-size gopher tunnel system and a display of desert life, Davis said.
The new addition features some innovative approaches, said Davis. For example, the fort constructed of rough-hewn timbers houses a gift shop that sells candles and pioneer crafts. The fort's concession is also the zoo's first attempt at providing more than frozen treats and drinks. Included on the menu is fudge, ice cream and soft drinks.
Officials hopes the new shops will help generated needed funds for the zoo. If their popularity Thursday night was any indication, they shouldn't have any problem.