Henry Vilas Zoo Grows With Gift

By: Justin Williams
By: Justin Williams

"We have not only one piece of news that, in and of itself, would be a 'Wow!,' but two pieces of news that are 'Wow!'"

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk's exclamations follow Friday’s announcement involving the construction of a new Children's Zoo and polar bear exhibit at Madison's Henry Vilas Zoo.

Keith Oleson, President of the Henry Vilas Zoological Society proclaims, "An exhibit like this will just make it a type of a zoo that will be world–reknowned, everyone will wanna come and see it."

The polar bear exhibit, Arctic Passage, will provide a natural habitat for seals, caribou, snow owl, and cranes, and will feature an underwater viewing area.

Meanwhile, designs for the children's zoo include animal exhibits, a walk-through barn, and a 36 animal Conservation Carousel.

It will remain open year round for the more than 500,000 yearly Vilas visitors, half of whom, are children. Funding for the project will come form a new, 10–year campaign, called Zoo Century.

"With the 'Zoo Century,' we've set an ambitious goal of raising $27 million, again, $27 million, over the next 10 years," explains Oleson.

Madison and Dane county are squawking to the tune of $500,000 and $4.5 million, respectively, which will supplement a $2 million donation from the Rennebohm Foundation.

Zoo Director, Jim Hubing, says the total cost for the two projects is eight million dollars, adding the cost for visitors to enjoy the zoo will remain zero.

"Kinda unique, and I think it's our strongest asset because any part of our community can come here and have a terrific time without committing a lot of resources."

Falk says Dane county's contribution will come from bond revenues.

Meanwhile, the children's zoo and Arctic Passage are scheduled for completion in 2007.

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