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Duluth is considering non-animal options for the future of Lake Superior Zoo

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The future of the Lake Superior Zoo and Fairmount Park may not include any animals.

The zoo has been struggling financially despite city subsidies, so before government officials agree to invest millions of dollars into improving and revitalizing the park, they wanted to look at all their options, Duluth Mayor Don Ness wrote in an editorial in the Duluth News Tribune.

The city hired two consulting firms – ConsultEcon and HKGI – to come up with ideas, and officials got a look at these options at Monday's city council meeting, WDIO reports.

ConsultEcon came up with two ideas that would revitalize the zoo, keeping the animals:

  • A $16 million option to revitalize the zoo by adding a brown bear exhibit, more indoor exhibits, turning the flood-damaged Polar Shores exhibit into an amphitheater, among other amenities.
  • A $12 million option, scaled-down version of the above option.

HKGI suggested less expensive options that would cost $9.8 million to $10.25 million, the Duluth News Tribune says, but moved away from large animal exhibits:

  • An adventure zone that would include indoor climbing, an education center, a canopy ropes course and an upscale petting zoo, WDIO says.
  • A nature park that would include a learning center, outdoor garden house and a focus on native plants, the news station notes.
  • A central park that would include a restaurant or brew pub, an amphitheater, and trails to the Cross City Trail and Traverse, Northland's NewsCenter notes. This would include little or no animals.

Jim Filby Williams, the city's public administration director, said HKGI's options wouldn't need the hundreds of thousands of dollars in city subsidies the zoo options would still require, the Duluth News Tribune notes.

Williams noted the non-zoo option may be the better way to go because it would be less expensive to maintain, Northland's NewsCenter says.

This news surprised the Lake Superior Zoological Society, who hadn't heard a no-zoo idea was being considered for the park.

The zoological society and some city officials suggested asking the community what they would like more, the Duluth News Tribune says.

City administrators hope to have a plan picked by the end of summer, WDIO reports.

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