LOGAN — The Willow Park Zoo is quickly running out of money. Zoo officials say they will have to either find another source of revenue or close.
The 9-acre zoo at 419 W. 700 South in Logan has a variety of animals native to North America, as well as some exotic species from around the world. While it’s not as big as Salt Lake City's Hogle Zoo, it does have some small-town charm.
“It’s not a giant zoo, but it’s nice to be able to come and see the different animals and just experience it right here in Logan,” said Logan resident Derek Green.
For Green it’s a longtime tradition. He’s been coming to the zoo since he was a child. “It's nice to be able to bring my kids here, and have them experience that, too," he said.
But that could soon change. Hard economic times over the past couple of years have impacted the revenues that the zoo depends on, said Russ Akina, director of Logan Parks and Recreation.
Fewer people are showing up to pay the $2 adult admission and $1 for kids. That means the zoo has less money to keep the place running.
“(That) makes me sad,” said Danielle Stevens of Smithfield. “The kids just love it here.”
The zoo's budget is approximately $300,000 a year, Akina said. A third of the annual budget comes from the Recreation, Arts, Parks and Zoos tax. About $60,000 comes from state grants, and a combination of admissions and donations adds $40,000. The remaining $100,000 has been coming from reserves for the past several years. Those resources over time have dwindled.
“We’ve laid people off in the past and had to cut our operating expense,” Akina said.
After several years of running in the red, depending on reserves to stay afloat, city leaders are facing some tough choices.
“Now we've reached the point where, from the projections we're looking at, the zoo wouldn't be able to sustain itself after June 30 of next year,” he said.
The zoo will have to get more money somewhere, or the gates will close.
"That's sad, because it's been here since I was a little kid and my older siblings were little. I have good memories, and it should be open for other people to get good memories too,” said Mikiele Steinmann of Idaho.
The city will take public input on the zoo's future at a meeting Tuesday night in the council chambers, 290 N. 100 West, from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
If the zoo were to shut down, the city would be required by law to find new homes for all of the animals.
Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc