The first of many improvements planned for the Wilmington zoo officially opened today.
Construction on the Eagle Ridge observation area is finished, just in time for the Brandywine Zoo‘s spring opening this weekend. Crews broke ground in October 2015.
“The Brandywine Zoo is a Delaware treasure that appeals to both the young and the young at heart,” said Gov. Jack Markell, D-Delaware, at Thursday morning’s ribbon cutting ceremony. “The completion of Eagle Ridge is another reason why the Brandywine Zoo is one of the best small zoos in the country.”
The series of boardwalks and ramps improves access to the otter and eagle exhibits, making the rear part of the zoo both wheelchair- and stroller-friendly.
“This project really was designed to improve accessibility and observation of a couple of really, really important exhibits at the back end of the zoo,” said David Small, secretary of Delaware’s Dept. of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. “Everyone loves the river otter exhibit and this will give people a lot more opportunity to be able to see them at play … and also being up close and personal with a great symbol of our country — the American bald eagle.”
The price tag for the renovation at Eagle Ridge was $0. Five Delaware state lawmakers chipped in a total of $100,000 in community transportation funds to cover the cost. And the treasurer of the Delaware Zoological Society, who’s an architect, donated the design work. Together, the DZS and DNREC’s Division of Parks and Recreation manage the state-owned zoo and its 150 animals.
Zoo Director Gene Peacock said Eagle Ridge is just the beginning in terms of upgrades for the 111-year-old zoo.
“What we’ve been doing over the past three years is trying to do little hits here and there that show we’re trying to improve to grow to bigger things,” Peacock said.
In 2014, zoo officials announced plans for a $10 million facelift for the 13-acre zoo that included a rainforest. Peacock said because of the cost, a rainforest is more of a long-term goal and that zoo leaders are looking at other more immediate, less expensive upgrades.
“We’re looking at some other exhibits, possibly developing our hillside to go off of this [Eagle Ridge] deck. Won’t be quite as expensive. We’re not sure which one we want to do next, and that’s where we’ll get in the planning stages and funding,” Peacock said.
In the meantime, Peacock said the zoo is getting ready to unveil some new reptile exhibits in the next couple of weeks.