The Future of Watertown's Zoo Hangs in the Balance: Why It Must Stay Open

The Future of Watertown's Zoo Hangs in the Balance: Why It Must Stay Open

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Sunshine and clouds mixed. High around 35F. Winds NE at 10 to 15 mph..

A few clouds. Low 21F. Winds light and variable.

Updated: February 6, 2024 @ 12:43 pm

Jen Graham, a zoo technician, feeds a slice of apple to Aspen, the bull elk at Zoo New York last month. Zachary Canaperi/Watertown Daily Times

Jen Graham, a zoo technician, feeds a slice of apple to Aspen, the bull elk at Zoo New York last month. Zachary Canaperi/Watertown Daily Times

The Zoo in Watertown’s Thompson Park is a treasure for residents of the north country, and visitors.

And it is a sanctuary for the animals who live within.

From the elk, to mountain lion, otters and wolves it’s been a home to many wayward animals that would have no chance living on their own, for the past 30 years.

It’s a long way removed from the days of the sad lion on a chain that garnered attention and moved the city and Thompson Park Conservancy to create a native zoo to bring people and nature closer together.

And now that its finances are in peril and a group is meeting to discuss its future, there should only be one option on the table — keep the zoo open.

The conversation needs to be about how, not if.

The zoo has been open year-round. It’s a great place for families with kids, it’s safe and accommodating to all people with its paved walkways and has opportunities to see neat creatures inside and out. There is land for expansion of programs. It is among the city’s best assets and arguably the most promotable to draw tourists.

On Jan. 21, the Watertown Daily Times published a story on the history of the zoo and the conundrum it currently faces.

In October, the Thompson Park Conservancy, the group that operates Zoo New York, announced it was closing without a date to reopen, due to continuing financial issues.

It’s not the first time that the zoo in Thompson Park has faced a similar situation since it opened a century ago.

Retired veterinarian David M. Plante and pediatrician Alfred L. Gianfagna are among the 13 members of the city’s Zoo Task Force, called upon now to look at what can be done to keep the zoo open

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