POWELL, Ohio — Ground was broken on Oct. 24 for updates to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s North America section.
“This is the oldest section of the zoo,” said zoo spokeswoman Amanda Osborne, going back to 1985. “It’s time for new state-of-the-art exhibits,” said Katie Wolfe Lloyd, Chairperson of the zoo’s Board of Directors.
Zoo President and CEO Tom Schmid said this will be the largest zoo project since Adventure Cove. He said the North America Trek project will be constructed in two phases with a spring 2025 unveiling for the first phase. Schmid said the $40 million project is currently 80% percent funded with two years of fundraising, and a “three-to-one match with dollars we’ve earned.”
Kendra Wecker, chief of the Division of Wildlife for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, then presented Schmid with a check for nearly one million dollars, the largest gift in the division’s history. Wecker noted the zoo raises and reintroduces animals native to Ohio such as hellbenders, mussels and snakes.
The zoo also raises “orphans that wouldn’t have a home,” said Nikki Smith, curator of the North American region. “We provide homes for injured animals that can’t be released into the wild.”
She said the updates will include the chance to see bears while they are hibernating (now called denning) without disturbing them; adjustable water streams for the otters; and the chance for the wolves to look down on people, which they like to do.
Major donors then put on hard hats and grabbed a shovel to pose for the obligatory groundbreaking photos.
“Coming Soon!” said the current zoo map. “Construction for the redevelopment of our North America region will begin in fall 2023.”
The North America region can be accessed by vistiors by heading right once through the gates. It is near Conservation Kake, Asia Quest, Polar Frontier and Heart of Africa sections. Currently on view in the North America region are the bald eagle, black bear, Canadian lynx, cougars, Mexican wolf, moose, reindeer, river otter, trumpeter swan and wolverine. The area also has an aviary, barn, cottage and small train ride.
More than 2.2 million visitors come to Delaware County annually to visit the zoo. It cares for more 10,000 animals of 600 different species. “We actively support more than 75 conservation initiatives in over 20 countries worldwide,” the zoo’s website said. “Our unwavering dedication to our mission, encapsulated in the motto, ‘Empowering People. Saving Wildlife.’ has propelled us from being a small Ohio zoo to achieving international recognition as the renowned Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.”
The zoo will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2027. For more information, visit www.columbuszoo.org.
Assistant Editor Gary Budzak covers the eastern half of Delaware County and surrounding areas. He may be reached at [email protected].