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Tucson City Council stops voter-approved Reid Park Zoo expansion project, moves forward with new plan

Published: May. 4, 2021 at 11:51 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The battle to keep Barnum Hill and the South Duck Pond has been won. Tuesday evening, the Tucson City Council voted to end the current Reid Park Zoo expansion project.

Those who fought for the green space just west of the zoo couldn’t be happier.

“I am elated!” said Jessica Flack. “It’s really, really exciting.”

Flack is behind the petition that put the expansion project in the spotlight. In November, she launched “Save the Reid Park Duck Pond,” which has received more than 30,000 signatures.

“This is a really important space for me. I actually live in the neighborhood, so I am here almost every day,” she said. “I’m also an educator and I just kept thinking of my students last year and how sad it would be if this space was taken away. These places really do provide a way for children and families of all income levels to interact with nature.”

Proposition 203, which funds the expansion project, was approved by Tucson voters in 2017. However, critics say it did not mention the 3.5 acres of space that would be lost as a result.

In response to recent public outcry, Mayor and Council decided to pause construction for 45 days to explore other options and get community feedback; including from the most highly participated city survey to date.

On May 4, the Tucson City Council decided to:

  • Stop work on the current (western) expansion
  • Redesign a northwestern expansion, specifically looking at hybrid of concepts D and G
  • Create a new comprehensive Reid Park Master Plan

Council Member Steve Kozachik was the only voice of dissent.

“One of the subs that I spoke with is going to lay off 40 workers if we pivot, another is going to lay off 13 to 15,” he said. “Realizing any pivot is going to have a one year to three year delay.”

Kozachik says $2.5 million has already been spent on the project, so taxpayers’ money has been wasted. He says going in a new direction will also incur new, unknown expenses.

“You can’t put a price on this, you can’t put a price on green space,” Flack said.

A D and G hybrid approach would delay construction for at least a year. However, Reid Park Zoo staff are just thrilled to move forward with the expansion.

“It’s really hard to predict anything until you really get into the design,” said Nancy Kluge, the President and CEO of Reid Park Zoo. “What we are really happy about is we can start putting those details together. We are really grateful for all of the thought that Mayor and Council took and all of the community input they took into account with making their decision.”

When complete, “Pathway to Asia” will bring several new animals, including red pandas, to the zoo.

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