Thompson Park Zoo Needs Money to Keep Running Long-Term

WATERTOWN, N.Y. -- Each year on average, more than 45,000 people make their way around the Thompson Park Zoo, admiring animals native to the state. However, if things don't change financially, one day the zoo may be gone.

"The zoo is not a sustainable long-term operation as it's currently operated," said Peter Schmitt, a management consultant for the zoo.

Schmitt, along with other zoo representatives, asked the city council for help at Monday's meeting, requesting $97,500. They also asked for an increase of $10,000 to the annual amount the city already gives the zoo.

"It could give a spark of life back into the zoo as we had in 1990, when the zoo was turned over and could sustain the operation for a number of years to come," said Schmitt.

He says they need money to help upgrade infrastructure, revamp exhibits and improve management. Council members say they want to support the zoo, but it's a matter of ability to do so.

"If we can find the money, we will try to help you. Where we're going to get it from, I'm not exactly sure," said Watertown Council Member Teresa Macaluso. "It's a part of the history of this city and nobody wants to see it falter. We're really going to have to look at the budget."

The zoo recently received grants from the Northern New York Community Foundation. They're hoping with that help, plus help from the city, they can be stable enough to start a $2 million campaign in a couple of years.

"We don't want to go on a capital campaign until we can prove that we're sustainable," said Schmitt. "It's just not fair to ask the community for funds for an operation that may not exist."

Council members plan to look at the budget and see if they can work out a plan to help out, which would allow a home for animals and a fun experience for residents to live on.

The zoo also plans to ask the county for $97,500.

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