Work has begun on the Rocky Shores project! With the demolition of the 50-year-old bear grottos and our other aging facilities, the site at the northwest corner of the Zoo is now ready to be transformed into a new complex of animal homes for polar bears, seals and sea lions, river otters and bald eagles. Construction will last about 18 months, with animals moving into their new homes in early 2012 and a public opening in the spring of that year.
We have talked about Rocky Shores in earlier issues of The SAFARI, and we will continue to provide updates as the project takes shape. Here, though, I’d like to describe some of the impacts a project of this scope has on the Zoo. Tearing up nearly four acres of the Zoo’s 42 total acres creates a “ripple-effect” of impacts.
Where did the animals go? Some of our animals had to be moved to new homes to prepare for Rocky Shores construction. Our black bears are now living on a wooded hillside at the Oregon Zoo. The penguins and red panda are being sent to other accredited zoos with appropriate facilities. Many of the animals, however, have been moved to other areas right here in the Zoo. Our Animal Care and Operations Departments have worked together to modify existing facilities or, in some cases, build entirely new homes for some of the displaced animals. Our cougars and Chacoan peccaries now reside in refurbished areas near the prairie dogs, while our bobcat, llamas and bald eagles now live on the hill south of the camels. Our ostriches similarly have moved to new digs. Next time you visit, look for these animals in their new locations.
Will construction close the Zoo? The Zoo will remain open all winter, as always. The Zoo’s food service is now consolidated to three locations, as the old Bear Grotto snack stand is gone. Through the winter, the Beastro will be the primary food location. Another change for guests is the closure of the old bridge at the west end of the Zoo. We hope to have our dramatic new gateway bridge installed by December, but, in the meantime, pedestrian traffic stops at the Primate Building. We will minimize inconveniences to our guests throughout the construction of Rocky Shores.
Our employees are also affected by Rocky Shores construction. New enclosures mean different animal-care techniques and schedules. Staff parking will be disrupted temporarily or long-term, and access to certain areas near the construction will be affected. We all have our comfortable routines, and those routines are sure to be disrupted by a big project like this.
Of course, the reward at the end will be better homes for our animals and fantastic experiences for our members and guests.