Duluth foresees a better, more compact Lake Superior Zoo


Duluth and the Lake Superior Zoological Society are finally seeing the zoo's future in a similar way.

The city and zoo rolled out a plan Wednesday that would make the zoo a little smaller and turn some of its land over to the surrounding Fairmount Park, KBJR 6 reports.

The station says city officials noted the nine acres of additional parkland will make Fairmount Park a prominent part of Duluth's St. Louis River Corridor, while the zoo's new 10-acre footprint will be comparable to that of St. Paul's Como Park Zoo.

The city estimated the cost of the changes at $15 million, which is less than half the $40 million price tag mentioned in a 2008 master plan for the zoo, the Duluth News Tribune reports.

The city-subsidized zoo has been plagued by financial problems in recent years, particularly since it was damaged by floodwaters in 2012. That led to discussions about whether the site should continue to house animals at all.

New Mayor-elect Emily Larson tells the News Tribune she's been part of the zoo talks throughout their 18 months and says she supports the new vision but adds it "will probably still move around a little bit."

The News Tribune says exotic animals – including lions, tigers, and bears – remain in the zoo's plans for the downsized footprint.

FOX 21 says new a new bear exhibit is part of the plan, along with a Forest Discovery Zone and an amphitheater. Public comments on the plan will be accepted beginning in January, the station says.

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Lake Superior Zoo reopening

It's been more than three weeks now since Feisty the seal and Berlin the polar bear rode the floodwaters out of their zoo enclosure and into a media spotlight. Their Polar Shores exhibit remains empty while officials at the Duluth zoo decide whether to revive it. But the rest of the Lake Superior Zoo reopens to visitors Friday for the first time since the flood. One official calls it a step toward a return to normalcy.