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City Manager makes recommendation for Reid Park expansion project

Published: Apr. 27, 2021 at 5:21 PM MST|Updated: Apr. 27, 2021 at 12:03 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - After months of accepting public input on the Reid Park Zoo expansion program, the city will move forward with Concept D.

In a meeting on Tuesday, April 27, City Manager Michael Ortega made the official recommendation.

“There (is) a way to have a win-win, which means a zoo expansion in an area that makes sense and preserve the things that people had of most value, which is Barnum Hill and the south duck pond. Concept D absolutely accomplishes that,” said Tim Thomure, Assistant City Manager.

The project looks to create a “Pathway to Asia” exhibit that would extend into Reid Park where the south duck pond currently is located. The project was approved several years ago, however recent criticism caused Mayor Regina Romero to put the expansion on hold.

Eight options; lettered A-H, ranged from “no expansion” to a $100-million “relocation of the entire zoo.”

According to city documents, Concept D is not only cost-effective but considered to be one of the more successful plans. It will preserve the Barnum Hill and South Duck Pond area, and provides flexibility in the parks green area. It has an additional $3.6 million price tag.

Concept D
Concept D(City of Tucson)

In a survey over the various options, “D” was found to be the most neutral, but members of “Save the Heart of Reid Park” and neighborhood leaders, are still pushing for concept “G.” It would expand the zoo into a portion of the existing parking lot and the city’s therapeutic recreation building. They said the city inflated the costs of the option—not finding ways to cut back on the proposal. People for the “G” option gathered Tuesday to rally behind their idea.

“Option D was not the answer for any of the inner-city people,” said Molly McKasson, Save the Heart of Reid Park. “It might have been the answer for people in the Foothills or people on the far side of town, but not here.”

They said removing a proposed parking garage in option “G” and using surface lots already in existence would majorly cut out costs, along with other amendments.

“There may be ways that the zoo can cut down on the amount of space, and then maybe make it even less expensive,” said Michael McCrory, Save the Heart of Reid Park.

In the middle of it all, the zoo said they support the city manager’s recommendation for option “D.” It could be at least three years before the expansion is complete.

“Right now, we look forward to collaborating with the City of Tucson and bringing Pathway to Asia to life,” said Nancy Kluge, president and CEO of Reid Park Zoological Society.

Ortega’s decision will be considered by Mayor Romero and the Tucson City Council at a meeting on May 4.

To read the City Manager’s memo, CLICK HERE.

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