The Tulsa Zoo is projecting an uptick in annual visitors from the current 637,000 to more than 1 million by 2025. This kind of jump means more congestion in parking lots and in lines to get into the zoo.
The $693 million Improve Our Tulsa renewal package takes aim at that problem with $6 million to provide patrons with better parking facilities, improved entrances and continued support of its new Lost Kingdom exhibit.
The 4½-year city tax package is a renewal of bonds and sales taxes originally approved in 2013. It does not increase tax rates.
About 67% of the package that goes before voters on Nov. 12 is focused on bond-funded transportation improvements, especially streets and bridges. That’s an appropriate recognition of the top priorities of most Tulsans.
Most of the remaining third — funded with continuation of temporary city sales taxes — is designated for quality-of-life projects throughout the community, efforts to bolster neighborhoods and city-supported institutions.
It’s not surprising that the Tulsa Zoo is among these projects. It’s popular with city residents and tourists but needs city support if it is to continue to grow and thrive. The 85-acre zoo at Mohawk Park is owned by the city but privately managed by the nonprofit Tulsa Zoo Management Inc. The move to private management came in 2010 when the city was struggling with budget issues, and the zoo nearly lost its accreditation.
Since then, the zoo has made significant strides, including the development of a 20-year master plan, completion of the Sea Lion Cove, creation of the Mary K. Chapman Rhino Reserve and the opening of the Robert J. LaFortune WildLIFE Trek that focuses on animals around the world.
Among the most notable successes is the opening of the Lost Kingdom two years ago. The interactive complex has a naturalistic architecture for habitats of rare Asian animals, including snow leopards, Chinese alligators, Komodo dragons and siamangs.
The Tulsa Zoo is a place of learning and wildlife conservation; it’s a family destination, and it brings tourist money to our city. The city’s zoo is worth the city’s financial investment.
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